Tuesday 1 April 2014

In a brotherhood we stand at !Audacious Church

In brotherhood we stand
Last weekend, I attended a men’s conference at !Audacious Church which goes by the title Brotherhood.
The theme of the conference was “Faith for …” and one can only say that the messages were enlightening, inspiring and exhilarating.
Yet again, from another perspective as I have seen in other men’s conferences in Pentecostal circles before, these gatherings are overtly muscular, an orgy of heterosexual celebration seeking an inlet to the vulnerability of full-grown men.
The view from the book
We were not disappointed and really I cannot take issue with situations that I willingly and wilfully let myself in for.
This conference taking place just as we celebrated the first gay marriage in the UK elicited comment from the Pastor about what the bible says and I guess we’ve heard it all before and again.
My concern stems from the fact that I do know what the bible says, we all, if religious, know most of what our religious tomes say and how sometimes we tend to hang on every word of the letter and leave out the humanity needing ministry.
Beyond the book to people
Now, this is not to attack anyone, but I have many times come to understand that what the bible says might mean a lot to me yet very little to others. The others whose impressions of religion have come from the experiences they have suffered from being put down as unworthy, unclean, common, hell-bound, hopeless, dirty and much else.
Their lives have been made miserable by people who portend to have some spirituality with the arrogance of ‘knowing’ that they are closer to God than others.
In that vein, it is difficult to see how to persuade and proselytise without bludgeoning the person into helpless submission, it is unhealthy.
My Good Samaritan view
I hope that when I encounter the broader diversity of our humanity, I am a light than a flame, that I have an embrace of warmth to offer than an accusative finger pointing out where they are wrong, bad, difficult, rotten or inferior.
For some people the spirituality I espouse would only become effective when I meet them where there is a need, an angel of compassion than hopes that the encounter would bring a thankfulness, a cheerfulness, some happiness and a hope. I believe that gets further than “the bible says.”
If the Samaritan who we now know as the Good Samaritan had followed spirituality over humanity as the priest and Levite had done before him as they walked past the man left for dead by the wayside, we would have had no such lesson of how our humanity matters more above spirituality. Neighbourliness transcends norms.
Left a spiritual Humpty Dumpty
Yet, in these conferences, we have ample space for conviction, though in some more vulnerable than others, they would be consumed with guilt and condemnation, broken and helpless, the showing of hands with a prayer supposed to transform the person almost in an instant. But some are left spiritual Humpty Dumptys with no king’s men to put them back together again.
Between denial and acceptance
As you wander between discernment and critique, it is important to know when you have become part of the mass hysteria as the crowd is worked up to a frenzy. It is at that time that so many things Anglican allow for a personal and private spiritual awakening within a public celebratory space.
Pentecostal circles are highly expressive, seeking a public declaration and almost at the same time bringing a sense of satisfaction to the protagonists who deign in acknowledgement, the power of persuasion.
The atmosphere is combative to the point of being aggressive, your response is required else you are almost condemned for being ashamed that it compels you to react – on whether it is right, I cannot say. But if God knows the heart of every man, does a man have to see the hand of every heart?
Choose where I go
I left the conference sat on a fence disputing between who I am and whether I should accept myself or reject myself. Under that kind of mental duress, much harm can be wrought, for a man who is not a husband or father, nor aspiring to be one, a lacking is exposed that only having been happy with yourself before and having learnt to love who you are can help dampen the supposed inadequacies.
At my age, I sometimes wonder if men’s conferences have much to offer me after from a stark realisation that I might well be too radically different from others who bare, seek or manage the responsibilities of husband, father, marriage and strongly conservative leanings.
I am well advised to choose the conferences I attend wisely.

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