Monday, 7 February 2011

Thought Picnic: At church with Sy Rogers

Not finding a place

I have over time grown averse to Christian preachers that portend to speak about matters that concern gender, sexuality and relationships because they have not seemed to have a message that resonates, informs my humanity or leave me edified in any way apart from highlight my apparent inadequacies.

In fact, I could give time to many of those issues, sexual abuse in childhood, sexuality, identity and a state of elderly bachelorhood that is not prospective of getting hitched for all sorts of reasons and in particular, that of health where the dangers loom and problems are not in the purview of natural solutions.

It is so difficult to find relevance within the church community when you are in your mid-forties, never married, without kids and not in the “risk category” of the bliss of walking down the aisle.

They are not addressing my kind of single

The singles meetings and events are usually geared towards those planning on becoming couples, the participants would rarely be above 35 and all seem to be looking for cues to finding that perfect match and needing help to deal with the issues that surround the preparation for marriage

At least, I have not seen or heard programmes for spinsters or bachelors of a certain age, we are the anomaly, the minority and for convenience we attempt to be invisible.

Invisibility helps avoid questions which have no easy answers, it protects from the avalanche of scripture to conform to the typical church-type – the seeking the wife, the courtship, the marriage, the children and everything that it entails.

An unusual man with a resonating message

So, as I got to church today, I was in for a surprise that I took second helpings of the offering, the preacher was introduced to a standing ovation, I had never heard him speak before.

His mannerisms were familiar long before he spoke and by the time he did, I thought, this would be interesting as my mind wondered about the many opportunities I have rejected to participate in church leadership, even at the lowest level.

This man has been on a journey, a long one at that - 30 years of ministry, with vivid pictures of a past that would crash the careers of motivational speakers talk less of a minister of the gospel but he had walked in some really tight shoes, through thorny thickets, sometimes bruised, sometimes battered but unbowed with a message that connected to the humanity of all.

The matter of sexuality is a broader topic beyond homosexuality, it is about struggles, identity, relationships, abuse and addictions; it is about love, lust, loneliness, trust, character and more – we all have a weakness that we have allowed ourselves to be defined by.

He had an amazing Christian message that I have never heard from other preachers of note who seemed to have a binary view of things where you were either in or out, right or wrong, on the road to perdition or to paradise – on the contemporary issues of the day the savvy preachers sit on the fence, but he directed his concepts of religion to our humanity.

Seeking relevance in the religions we follow

I have always been of the view that the function of religion is to serve humanity, where it appears to fail or sacrifice humanity on the altar of custom, tradition, creed, code, rule or method; it becomes like salt that has lost its savour and that is the Genesis of cultism.

I see too many trends and fads within church organisations that leave me less affiliated than is necessary to be called having a membership, where things begin to coalesce around leaders or as it were personalities, mannerisms take hold – I have never been an organisation man per se, my life experiences in many ways inform my need for independence and great latitude at maintaining that.

However, the church I have attended sporadically is probably the one I have felt most comfortable in, if I were to attend another it would probably be a return to High-Church Anglicanism than seek out another charismatic denomination.

Life happens and never suddenly

The speaker’s life experiences were the template of his message, how his encounters with God brought him through an early life of parental estrangement, bereavement, sexual abuse, homosexuality, transsexuality at the point of undergoing a sex change through the moment that he got a revelation of love to forming new relationships, courtship, marriage, parenthood and now he is about to be a grandfather.

There were no moments of the suddenly or instant but a process, the humour and his way with words made very difficult subjects accessible and the delivery allowed for everyone to find a way to relate in different ways.

His message was not an ex-gay message, he did not repudiate the past but gave relevance to how the past could help appreciate the present and guide in times of challenges.

Knowledge and revelation

I liked his example of the difference between knowledge and revelation – If one were in a dark room and were told it contained amazing works of art on the walls, you could believe the story and probably be convinced by the narrator but that is knowledge, when the light is switched on in that room – knowledge becomes an experience, a revelation, an encounter.

We all need encounters with God in our Christian life; it would help that we journal these encounters to keep us in remembrance of how we have been touched because we have as part of our humanity the inability to imprint well those encounters to maintain our confidence in being able to meet ever increasing challenges in the Christian walk.

Between loving and using

These encounters are should be clearly differentiated from the typical, in his words; “I’m sorry, forgive me, give me, hurry up” relationships; created on what one pastor so succinctly put up on Facebook the other day – Love God and Use Money, not the other way round.

That interchange of “Love” and “Use” is what determines the success that one makes of their religion and the ability to meet challenges with the power that is on offer to live wholesome victorious lives.

By the time he came to end of his message, I walked away with an impartation, the kind he hoped to offer which was hoping that something from his life would in some way add to our lives to help us understand our humanity and core message of Christianity.

My takeaways

It is part of human nature to have appetites but we can chose to fulfil them our way but God offers the best means for satisfying those appetites; if we find ourselves running from God rather than running to Him, we are on the wrong path.

Obviously, each individual who heard him would have to take from his message what helps them, but I can say that I am glad for hearing Sy Rogers [1] tell his story and it was one that gave me a kind of hope I have never before thought within grasp.

However, he had some quotes [2] that would keep the message in our consciousness long after the encounter and I found a list of them that I heard during his talk.

“God would rather have you messy than not have you at all.”

“Sure, God will take you like you are, but He will take you further.”

“There’s a big difference between what you think you know about God versus an experience with Him.”

“Change is not your goal—that’s an inevitable byproduct of growth. Growing in God is your great goal. As you grow things can change.”

I was blessed. Thank you.

Postscript

There is every possibility and in fact, reality, that Sy Rogers is dogged with controversy, some will choose to define him by his past but it does not make his story any less relevant to those who search for knowledge and truth of how someone has gained a fulfilling life experience in the midst of difficult choices, circumstances and situations.

I will not call Sy Rogers ex-gay, former gay or any other label, in Christianity everyone is a former something, the question is what are you now, in spite of your past?

So, I have referenced his biography [3] from this site and it is incumbent on the individual to use knowledge with a sense of wisdom and discernment.

Reference

[1] Sy Rogers Communications - International Communicator and Minister

[2] Sy Rogers - Quotes

[3] Sy Rogers | Ex-gayTruth.com

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