Tuesday, 8 July 2014

An honest video testimony

Almost a year ago I met a gay Christian. It was not the first time that I'd met gay Christians by any means! However this encounter was crucial in the evolving of my views on the subject, as readers of this blog will be aware. I realised that it was my problem, not hers. People like me were the ones who inflicted pain and alienation on people like her, who left no room for her to be who she was in the family of the Church. My deep regret for that is why I now recommend things which help both gay and straight people hear each other.

A twenty-year old student and a sketch pad on a beach. Using simple cartoons, he recounts his upbringing as part of a loving Christian family. He goes through the usual children's and youth groups which are part of most churches. It is one evening at the youth group, that he plucks up the courage to raise a question that's been troubling him. He poses it about "a friend". "I've got a friend, and he's gay. What do I do?" After an awkward silence, he is told in no uncertain terms: "YOU CAN'T BE GAY AND CHRISTIAN". And of course he is his gay friend.

This is the beginning of a short documentary made by James Lawbuary called A Video Testimony, described as "The story of a simple man who was changed by an almighty God". Almost the entire film is shot over his shoulder as he vividly recreates his struggles with the tension created by the dogmatic assertion, which bore no gainsaying. His experience echoes that of many in his position - many tears, many prayers, isolation and alienation from any faith he had. I won't to spoil the plot, but the change of the tagline takes place unexpectedly on a beach one evening on a church weekend away. It is a dramatic encounter with Jesus himself who speaks to him. 

Only at the end of the film as James packs up his art equipment does he turn round and we see him walk away. It is as if he has found resolution and found himself. And we see him as a person, an ordinary young man like anyone else, and like everyone else made "in the image of God" and loved by Christ - as he is.

What is impressive about this film is its transparent honesty and its understated conviction. It has a lovely statement of the God's universal good news at its heart. Watch it here: A LGBT Video Testimony. I thoroughly recommend it. 


  1. This has shades of Simon Friend's talk, on your other blog, about 'Scapegoating'
    It's sad that God is so often depicted as a 1 dimensional God.
    When I was young ( centuries ago) and in the Brownies, we were asked to bring something the following week to decorate our Brownie Corner.
    We had some lovely roses in our garden and I aske d my Father if I could have one. He said 'no' so..... you've guessed! I took it anyway.
    When I returned home my Father aske if I had taken it and I said 'no' Theft and lying!!
    Later, playing in the garden ( safest place to be) I got a lump of earth in my eye.
    When my Mother was washing it out in the bathroom, she said to me "You see Ann? that's what God does to little girls who tell lies! I remember it to this day. My wonderful Mother ( and she truly was) saying something so terrible. I can remember thinking " how can God be so nasty and spiteful?" The penny Catechism which our hugely strict nuns made us learn by heart on pain of punishment, said " God made us to know Him, love Him and serve Him" and I still remember thinking, " how can you love someone so spiteful?"
    When I got married and had a family of our own, I was determined that our children should never be given the impression that love was conditional.
    Years ago , when the press were hounding the 'Yorkshire Rippers' Mother for a comment, I remember her saying " All I can say is that he is my son and I will always love him"
    When children are told harmful things it makes an indelible imprint. Which maybe isn't entirely negative?. Because I was repeatedly told by our Maths teacher how stupid I was, I made a vow to myself, many years later, when incredibly, I became a teacher, that no child in my care would EVER be told they were stupid. There is no such thing as a stupid child.. In fact those with learning difficulties have very obvious and significant gifts which others do not have in the same degree.
    They also brought out the best in the other children. It made them more caring.
    Sad that this young man was told "you cannot be gay and be a Christian" Links very much to the 'scapegoating' talk on Room With A View

  2. I agree with so much you say, Ann. Never labeling a child as stupid. I hadn't heard that about Peter Sutcliffe's mother, but it's powerful, isn't it?
    Have you read Gerard Hughes, God of Surprises? I suspect you have! I found it a very helpful antidote to rigorous dogma. Altogether a good book, of which this is a particularly vivid section:
    “God was a familiar relative, much admired by Mum and Dad, who described God as very loving, a great friend of the family, very powerful and interested in all of us. Eventually we are taken to visit ‘Good Old Uncle George’. He lives in a formidable mansion, is bearded, gruff and threatening. We cannot share our parents’ professed admiration for this jewel in the family. At the end of the visit, Uncle George turns to address us. ‘Now listen dear,’ he begins, looking very severe, ‘I want to see you here once a week, and if you fail to come, let me just show you what will happen to you’. He then leads us down to the mansion’s basement. It is dark, becomes hotter and hotter as we descend, and we begin to hear unearthly screams. In the basement there are steel doors. Uncle George opens one. ‘Now look in there dear’, he says. We see a nightmare vision, an array of blazing furnaces with little demons in attendance, who hurl into the blaze those men, women and children who failed to visit Uncle George or to act in a way he approved. ‘And if you don’t visit me dear, that is where you will most certainly go’, says Uncle George. He then takes us upstairs to meet Mum and Dad. Mum leans over and says, ‘And now don’t you love Uncle George with all your heart and soul, mind and strength?’ And we, loathing the monster, say, ‘Yes I do’, because to say anything else would be to join the queue at the furnace. At a tender age religious schizophrenia has set in and we keep telling Uncle George how much we love him and how good he is and that we want to do only what pleases him. We observe what we’re told are his wishes and dare not admit, even to ourselves, that we loathe him”.

  3. Wow! even worse that "The Screwtape Letters" which is actually quite funny!

  4. Years ago, after a storm, I went for a walk through the fields with my first grandson, aged about four. Because of the flooding I urged him to stay close to me but he didn't and fell in the water. I shouted to him "You stupid boy!" And with tears in his eyes he said "I'm not stupid, Grandpa" - and I had tears in my eyes as I cuddled him and said "Of course you're not - I was just a bit cross - I'm sorry". He's a fine grown-up now, and I have been forgiven: but one in my prayers I always ask God to help me to guard my tongue.

    1. A good prayer, I think - which could be extended to help me control my typing on Twitter! So much rapid-fire intemperate commenting there.

  5. Which makes me doubly glad that I don't and won't ever use Twitter or Facebook.

  6. A confession!
    Having vowed I would never call a child stupid
    A 4 year old boy in my class was busy painting. Except that he was dipping his brush in the paint and having a wonderful time flicking it at the wall next to which he was standing. When I saw what was happening I went over and said "Michael (yes, that was is name) you stupid boy, how on earth did you manage to make such a mess" He turned to me with a most seraphic smile and said " It was easy Miss"! How could you then be cross?
    I did though, fetch a bowl of soapy water and get him to assist in removing his handiwork.!
    So many memories of the teaching years, which I enjoyed so much, but would not have gone back to if I'd been offered Lottery money as salary. Things were changing greatly even then. The battle to obtain help for those who needed it had already begun.