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Today, Vicky Beeching, Christian worship leader and media personality in the UK, published a very courageous interview. The title: “I’m Gay. God loves me just the way I am.”
Words cannot describe the respect I have for Vicky’s coming out. This must have been so terrifying for her. I hope and pray that she has people around her that will surround her in love, because she’s in for a blasting from the Evangelical Right.
Reading the interview broke my heart. The suffering Vicky went through is immense. Continuous grief, shame, feelings of desperation, even a life-threatening disease caused by the stress. It’s a terrifying story to read.
It’s terrifying to me on many levels. Vicky and I are the same age. And whereas I have been a happily married man for more than a decade now, Vicky has never yet had the joy of being in a loving relationship. In her own words: she’s 35, that’s half a life. She will not throw away the other half.
or: sifting through the insane amount of static surrounding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict
Most people that follow me will know by now that I have not been quiet about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict over the last few weeks. One of the most obvious elements in the responses to my tweets, facebook posts and blogs about the topic is that this conflict sure hits a sore nerve. In fact, I’ve felt kind of like this over the last two weeks.
But the simple fact that something is sensitive, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak about it. In fact, I believe it means we should speak about it more. We should speak about it with grace, with knowledge of the subject, with humility about our own positions. And we should speak about it with the willingness to learn, and to hear the other side of the argument.
This is the reason why I have been posting about the conflict. This is the reason why I have been sharing articles, infographics and videos; because facts, discussions and opinions matter. We’re only going to get to the truth if we look at the various angles.
The past week I expressed sadness and outrage at all of the suffering and death going on in Israel/Palestine. Sadness and outrage at what happened to the three young Israeli boys that were kidnapped and murdered. Sadness and outrage at the Palestinian boy that was kidnapped and burned alive in reprisal. At the police beating of this last boy’s cousin, after he was arrested for being involved in a riot. At the hundreds of rockets being fired into Israel. At the equal amounts of precision bombardments on Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces. Sadness that the home of proportional response* now just knows escalating levels of vengeance, death and destruction.
However, the responses I received were equally saddening. In the last week I have been accused of ‘choosing sides’, making ‘easy commentary from my armchair’, being ‘ignorant of what is really going on’, ‘promoting propoganda’, ‘ignoring God’s promises for the people of Israel’, not ‘understanding the Bible’. In all of my years as a human rights activist and as a rather outspoken critic of injustice regardless of where it takes place, I have never received such pushback.
Gisteren viel iedereen in mijn tijdlijn over elkaar heen om een intern plan van de EO af te kraken. Het idee: bij dodenherdenking een evenement organiseren, vergelijkbaar met de Passion. Niet over het lijden van Jezus, maar over de Holocaust.
Een slecht idee, als ik af moet gaan op de bijtende grappen en cynische sneren. Een ieder die mij kent weet dat ik niet vies ben van een potje collectieve verontwaardiging. Maar als ik eerlijk ben snapte ik deze ophef niet. Wat is er zo slecht aan dit plan? Kustaw Bessems schreef daar vanochtend op BNR een interessante column over (opklikken om het te lezen).
Die oproep gaat over een gebrek aan degelijke levensstandaard van asielzoekers in Nederland. Die degelijke levensstandaard is hier gewoonweg niet. Ze worden als honden behandeld. Mijn paper - over misstanden in Afrika - gebruikt verdraaid nog an toe dezelfde stukken uit de Universele Verklaring van de Mensenrechten en het ICESC, als zij doen.
Samenvattend: het moet niet gekker worden.
Vandaag van meerdere mensen de vraag gekregen waar ik morgen op zal stemmen. Zoals bij de meeste verkiezingen zal ik dit jaar ook een korte overdenking delen over mijn keuze voor de verkiezingen voor het Europees Parlement worden gehouden.
Eerst echter een oproep: het maakt me werkelijk niet uit of je op dezelfde partij stemt als ik, áls je maar stemt. Daar zou ik een lang verhaal over kunnen schrijven, maar dat deed Pieter Klein vandaag veel beter dan ik zou kunnen. Twijfel je nog of je morgen gaat stemmen, lees dan alsjeblieft zijn uitstekende stuk.
Twijfel je nog over op wie je zou moeten stemmen, dan hoop ik dat het volgende je zal helpen.
If I were ever to tell a parable of why I believe we are incredible as human beings, every single one of us, it would be the following scene from Doctor Who. I can never watch this without breaking into tears.
When we get to the Great Museum after we have shed our mortal coils, I can imagine it’ll be pretty much us as Vincent. And Bill Nighy as The Man. What we do here, no matter whether we see its effects, counts. Never think you’re not good enough. We all are, in our own spectactular way.
Laten we even de balans opmaken. Is het Nederlandse asielbeleid “Streng én rechtvaardig”?
We zetten ernstig zieke mensen uit mbv. vervalste reispapieren. (Streng ✓, Rechtvaardig - ) [Tussenstand: 1-0]
We zetten ernstig zieke mensen dertien jaar in een Asielzoekcentrum. (Streng ✓, Rechtvaardig - ) [Tussenstand: 2-0]
We zetten doodziek meisje van 6 uit. (Streng ✓, Rechtvaardig - ) [Tussenstand 3-0]
We dreigen ernstig psychische patiënten met uitzetting, resultaat zelfmoord. (Streng ✓, Rechtvaardig - ) [Tussenstand: 4-0]
Ondertussen dwingen we 2.500 mensen tot dakloosheid, als staand overheidsbeleid. (Streng ✓, Rechtvaardig - ) [Tussenstand: 5-0]
En de directie van Dienst Terugkeer & Vertrek claimt dat iedereen prima terug kan. (Streng ✓, Rechtvaardig - ) [Tussenstand: 6-0]
(Dat dit niet het geval is verwerp ik hier in de Volkskrant, John en Geesje doen het ook in diezelfde krant, en een aantal asieladvocaten lichten nog wat andere aspecten hiervan toe op Joop.nl)
Enfin, slechts een greep in de casussen van #strengrechtvaardig. De balans is doorgeslagen. Het is tijd voor een goed debat over dit beleid.
Doet me bijna denken aan het ‘duurzame’ keurmerk van Albert Heijn. Dat heet Puur en Eerlijk. Maar in feite gaat het er altijd maar om dat het óf een beetje eerlijker is dan modaal, óf een beetje ‘puurder’. Die “en” is daar net zo’n farce als bij het beleid van onze overheid.
So here’s a little update for those of my Social Media followers that might be annoyed by the amount of political/environmental/human rights posts that I spew forth. (And I know you’re out there, ‘coz I’m getting some IRL signals).
As I read about the world around me, there are various signs that are deeply troubling to me. Some of these revolve around human rights violations, or how we are treating the “weakest of these”, such as refugees. Some of these are about what is happening to the planet - of which we have only one, needless to say. Some are about how we are treating each other, nearer to home.
(Warning: this is a bit of a long post, but I hope worth the read.)
A couple of days ago, World Vision USA announced a slight change in their hiring policy: from now on christians that were in a same-gender marriage would be allowed to work for the organisation. The Evangelical right in America went on a rampage.
As an Evangelical, and as someone with a bit of a public platform, it is slightly unusual for me to be vocal in my support for same-gender marriage, but I felt that World Vision had made the right call in allowing gay and lesbian christians in.
Yesterday and the day before, I’d spent some time online talking with people about this. I was astounded by the amount of people that got in touch with me through private messages, e-mail, and through public conversation.
Some to have a respectful conversation about where we might disagree, honestly asking questions, and constructively searching for understanding. Some expressing surprise that this was even an issue in the Netherlands. Some thanking me for taking this stand, being gay and/or lesbian Evangelicals in the Netherlands, and finding it very hard indeed. Some telling me how far off the Gospel I’m starting to get. And others struggling with the topic, either they or people very close were gay, and they just didn’t know how to deal with this, or who to talk to. Some just to ask if they could have a coffee and have a ‘safe’ chat. I have never experienced such an overwhelming response in all my years of blogging, facebook, twitter, public rants, and speaking engagements.
Clearly, this whole topic is hitting a sensitive spot.
This morning when I woke up I saw that sometime last night, World Vision pulled back the change in hiring policy. I was at a loss for words, and have spent the past few hours wrestling with my response.
And though I could write an angry, or defensive, or offensive post, I won’t. I’m mostly sad. Because I think in this retraction, everybody lost. World Vision lost. The children in Africa lost. The Church lost. The world lost. The Evangelical Right lost. We all lost.
World Vision lost
I was in marketing for ten years, and from that perspective, World Vision did a horribly bad job of it the last week. Anybody in their team would have known that this change in policy would create a hurricane of reactions. Why weren’t they better prepared? Their retraction brought to mind a joke I heard last week: “These are our principles. If you don’t like ‘em, we’ve got another batch of them you might like over here.” If you’re going to make a principled stand, then you better have the resolve to stick by it. This is not to say I don’t understand their reaction. The majority of their supporters are the Evangelical Right, and they were hemmorhaging support. But, they could and should have seen this coming.
The children in Africa lost
As a result of many people withdrawing their support from World Vision, many kids that were being helped by them now are stuck without their supporters. This is not only deeply tragic, it is offensive. A position on gay marriage by a group of executives in America should never influence whether or not the poorest of the poor in developing countries - who have absolutely nothing to do with this decision - receive aid.
The church lost
But it’s not just the children and World Vision that lost. We, as a broader church, lost too. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And I’m pretty sure that the avalanche of knee-jerk reactions we’ve seen in the last days has very little to do with loving one another. The church should be a place where the weak and vulnerable are always welcome. Once again, as a church, we have shown that we are nothing of the kind. As a friend of mine said today, I am “Looking forward to the day we (myself included) find our focus on feeding the hungry and chilling with the poor.”
The world lost
But it’s not just the church, or the kids in Africa, or World Vision that lost. It’s also the broader world that lost. Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth, a city on a hill. Shining for all the world to see. We have a beautiful role to play on this world. Seasoning it. Making it bright. Making it better. When we respond in the way we have over the last days, we’re not just betraying the Gospel (a term used often in response to World Vision’s original statement), we’re betraying the world that Gospel was meant to serve. We’re denying the world the Good News for which a Man died on a cross.
The Evangelical Right lost
Over the last years, I have made it a point to engage in, and be in relationship with many on the Evangelical Right. Though we might disagree fundamentally on a whole range of topics, we read the same Book. And I believe it’s a paucity to not be informed by the whole range of opinions out there. As a result, I purposefully follow and engage with several Evangelical right-wingers. I greatly respect the dialogue I can have with them, and to their credit, I have not seen very much gloating or below-the-belt responses from them.
Still, I would argue that even the ‘winners’ lost. The Evangelical Right on the long term has done itself a disservice in various ways. Jesus came to the excluded, the marginalised and the outcast. He challenged a Pharisaical religious elite that was concerned with doctrinal purity and excluding ‘the other’. He called on us to challenge our assumptions. To ‘question everything and hold on to what is good’. To not be complacent in our cultural and social norms, but to love extravagantly, unconditionally, dangerously.
The Apostle Paul said that “if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Somewhere, I can’t help but feel that this would be directly applicable to the conversation we’ve been having over the past days. Wouldn’t it be great, if just for a while, we would all attempt to err on the side of loving extravagantly, rather than on the side of doctrinal purity?
We all lost.
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