I read with interest an article on stuff.co.nz last week about Living Waters, a Christian venue in Christchurch, that has changed its position on allowing LGBTI couples to get married there. From the tenor of the article it seemed that the venue had come to this policy change in a sensible, rationale and logical way. The director, Denis Aldridge, was quoted saying, “we’ve been on a journey with this one, and we’ve got there… It took a while.”
Part of the journey involves a recent Human Rights Commission complaint against Living Springs after a lesbian couple were refused their request to hire the venue for their wedding. According to the article, Living Springs did not feel coerced by the Human Rights Commission to change their policy. In fact Elizabeth Wiltshire, one half of the couple who made the Human Rights Commission complaint, rang to speak to Aldridge after the change in policy. Wiltshire indicated that Aldridge seemed to be perfectly happy with the outcome...more
From co-creator of elephantTV, @IdoyaMunn
I sat in church on Good Friday listening to the narrative of the crucifixion from chapters 18 and 19 of the Gospel of John. I’d never heard the whole passage read straight from the text in a church service before, and there was something pure and uncomplicated about it. It was the most appropriate thing to be doing on Good Friday, to be reading the story of an event you could say precipitated the birth of the Christian faith. The choir was magnificent, as it always is, but I wasn’t interested in the music. The building was vast and ponderous, as it always is, but it was the story that captured me.
I know the story. I’ve heard it every Easter since I was a child. It’s a story I’ve analysed for veracity, that I’ve used as ammunition in religious arguments, a story I know so well that at times I’ve lost its meaning. But this Good Friday I shut my eyes and saw it happening in front of me. Jesus the Christ, sentenced to death. I saw myself in the crowd as Pontius Pilate, the representative of the Roman authority the Jewish people were ruled by at that time, presided over Christ’s trial. Before him was Jesus Christ, and beyond that the throng of people. The Jewish priests wanted him sentenced to death for blasphemy and sedition. He had refused to pay taxes to Caesar, so they said. He had called himself the King of the Jews...more
Hello team and welcome to elephantTV 2016,
We hope you’ve had a great break hanging out with the people you love. We are really looking forward the year. We’ve got some new ideas coming your way - an audio podcast is in the pipeline and we are currently working on getting our current episodes on some new platforms like Netflix, iTunes and Amazon. We’ll let you know that goes.
I was visiting a church this morning and met someone who told me they were visiting the church because they’d told someone they felt like they believed in “something,” and that person, who was an atheist, had challenged them to put their belief into action. It was exciting to meet someone who was searching for genuine answers to questions they had about religion and spiritual ‘things’. It reminded me how passionate I feel about the hard questions in life and about good, honest conversations.
If you’re visiting us for the first time elephantTV is all about asking the tricky questions about faith that many of us have, and about looking at those questions from a variety of perspectives. We firmly believe that ‘Church’ is not a one-size-fits-all community and there are people sitting beside you in your congregation that believe the polar opposite to you in some areas- perhaps on some things you find pretty important. One of our foundation questions is: how do we move forward together as a body of believers while acknowledging our differences? We created our first elephantTV series specifically to support the church to look at the hard questions, and to understand each other’s differing perspectives. If you haven’t seen it yet, two of our most popular episodes are on Youtube at the moment. You can check out my own favourite - our episode on War here or go to our episode on Same Sex Marriage here.
Idoya and I recently moved to Dunedin from Auckland. We’ve been in transition mode not just physically but also theologically, intellectually, and creatively. When we began elephantTV I hoped that plenty of people from all parts of the church would want to watch the elephantTV episodes. What we have realised is that the number of people who genuinely want to understand an alternative position to their own is smaller than we thought. Plenty of people give lipservice to the idea of discussion but in reality are resistant to hearing anything that challenges their own tightly held beliefs. Perhaps deep down this actually comes from fear.
In the sermon of the church service I was in today the speaker talked about Ezekial 47, the description of Ezekial’s vision of the temple where a river flows out from within the temple. In the vision, the river’s depth is measured at various distances as Ezekial walks through the water, a river which ends up being so wide it holds “large numbers of fish” and is so potent that it heals the land it covers - “where the river flows, everything will live.” A common reading of this text in charismatic circles is that to walk deeper and deeper into the water signifies movement and progression in the spiritual practices of our faith - such as prayer and worship. But what got me thinking about this text was the realisation that the distance Ezekial was walking through the water was massive. It wasn’t just a brief stroll. A thousand cubits equals just under five hundred metres. In the vision, Ezekial walked about two kilometres in total through the water, until it was so deep he couldn’t walk any further. Which means he walked over a kilometre in water that was above his knees and rising with each step. That’s a challenging walk! Now what if instead of thinking of the significance of the water only as relating to our spiritual practices we considered what it could mean if we thought about it as relating to our intellectual engagement with our faith? What if the depth of the water related to the depth of our thinking and questioning? Getting our minds engaging actively with our faith is not always as simple as it sounds. And yes, wading through waist-high water is hard work. So is thinking. Sometimes it seems easier just to go along with what everyone else is thinking, or to just believe what we are being told. However, this can lead us to a shallow faith which may not last the distance.
Many of you know that Idoya and I have spoken out strongly about some controversial issues. I have at times been accused of not being willing to consider opposing views myself. As a former talkback host and someone who really likes nutting things out, I can only say that I am passionate about conversations where everyone gets heard, and where we work hard to understand where each other is coming from. I know that sometimes I come across as pretty blunt, and I can be very emphatic about what I think (Idoya points this out to me all the time!) but it is always my genuine desire to create open and respectful dialoque. In saying that, there are some issues which I feel very strongly about and it would be disingenuous of me to hide my true feelings. However elephantTV as an organisation does not take a firm position on any of the contentious issues that we encourage conversations about. Our aim from the start has always been to promote and facilitate dialogue, and we will continue to do so. What we will do more clearly this year is differentiate between elephantTV the organisation, and Idoya or I as individuals speaking from our own personal viewpoints.Through it all, our heart is still to move forward with the Church as a body, recognizing that there are different interpretations, beliefs and perspectives on what it means to be a follower of Christ.
We are really enjoying living in the South Island. If you are a mainlander and you or your church or community group would like to connect with us, please get in touch. If you want to chat with us about anything, from facilitating a public conversation at your church, to passing on contacts to support you having those conversations yourself then we would love to help in any way. We are also happy to make any episode available to you if you’d like our resources to be a way to begin these conversations in your church. We’d also love to hear from anyone who has a story they’d like to share about something they’ve changed their minds about, or a learning journey they’ve been on in their faith. Get in touch and give us an outline of what you’d like to share and we will look at publishing it on this blog and on our facebook page.
All the best for 2016,
Pat and Idoya
What is Yahria Law you might ask, well just think of Sharia Law for Christians. ‘Yahweh’ plus ‘Sharia Law’ equals Yahria Law and it becoming more and more common.
For clarity, Sharia Law is the body of Islamic law. The term means “way” or “path”; it is the legal framework within which the public and some private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islam. Many in the West see Sharia Law as a great concern as who would want a religion, ignoring the laws of the land, and forcing citizens to adhere to a code or belief system that they didn’t buy into.
Welcome to the world of Yahria Law a ” legal framework within which the public and some private aspects of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on [a particular form of] Christianity”
We are seeing it more and more, Western societies are warning of the ‘dangers’ of Islam, especially amongst the Conservative Christian section of that society, but are happy to support Christian views being forced on their own society when it flows against the tide of public opinion or even at times when contravenes the law...more
Posted with permission from Timothy Kurek is his Huffington Post articled titled An LGBT Ally’s Message to Would-Be Allies
Over the past six years my life and beliefs have changed dramatically. Most importantly, I am a former conservative, anti-gay Christian that is now an ally/activist for the LGBT community. But what does it mean to be an ally/activist and what is the reason for the transformation of my beliefs? It all boils down to one simple, yet profound skill that I have had to develop and hone for the better part of a decade. That skill is the practice of intentional empathy.
Practicing intentional empathy is at the core of not only my Christian beliefs, but also my beliefs of what every ally/activist must do in order to effectively assist and advocate for a marginalized group in today’s world.
There are three important realizations that I have come to in practicing intentional empathy and becoming a partner to the LGBT community. While this is conclusive list, these three things have aided me in becoming an effective ally.
The first and most important aspect of practicing intentional empathy is to realize your privilege. I am a straight, white, CISgender male and as such that means that conservative society as a whole illogically grants me freedoms and privileges that my LGBT brothers and sisters aren’t always given. In recognizing our own privilege, we are reminded of the privileges others are denied, simply for being who they are. And in recognizing those privileges denied, we have a common-sense idea of the ideologies that we should help others fight, so that we might achieve equality.
The second aspect of practicing intentional empathy is the constant need to remind ourselves that as allies we may be a part of the fight, but we are not the focus. Practicing intentional empathy means understanding that it is our responsibility to amplify and serve those to whom the fight belongs. An effective ally comes along side those he advocates for, and does not overshadow or try to outshine them. After my book, The Cross in the Closet, was released in October 2012, I made it a mission to help my friend Brandon Wallace, get his book, Straight-Face, published, so he would have a chance to tell his powerful and life-changing story. Brandon was a closeted gay man, and a Southern Baptist Youth Pastor at the same time. After being outed by a member of the church, he was forced to reconnect the dots between his sexual orientation and his Christian world-view. I highly suggest reading Straight-Face, if you want to be challenged and encouraged.
The last key in practicing intentional empathy is to realize that as a child, before you were encourged to fear those that are different from you, you were always innately practicing intentional empathy. Young children are simply unable to process and make judgments based upon the societal labels that so divide us later in life, and as such, are gifted in empathy towards all people. So in understanding these three keys, we are essentially RE-learning instead of learning how to be empathetic to those possessing different labels of race, economic class, religious affiliation or sexual orientation.
If you are interested in hearing a more in depth account of my personal journey towards re-learning this vital life skill, please watch the video below. It is my recent presentation at TEDx University of the Aegean, and I hope it not only encourages you in your journey, but also challenges you to see the world through your “neighbor’s” eyes, because that view makes life so much more beautiful.