Monday, 1 June 2015

Jesus Camp: A Netflix documentary, the church and homosexuality.

Everyone knows how much I love Netflix. I spend hours of my life watching series after series, becoming addicted to TV show after TV show. My dad coming into a room and saying 'what's this rubbish now?' Has been a regular occurrence for many years and now on my visits back form my life in Leeds this is no different, yet last night I watched something different. I've always enjoyed documentaries and everyone knows I love a good argument and I wish I'd had someone to argue (or at least listen to my rant) lat night. I watched a documentary called Jesus Camp, and I'm sure you can guess what it was about. Evangelical Christians of America. Specifically evangelical children of America. 

Now before I get into my main issues I want to get two things very clear. I am a Christian and I am gay. At this point in my life I am very comfortable and happy to talk about both of these parts of me. There was a point where I wasn't and I will open my arms and say that proudly that I was scared and I was confused. Many people, including myself thought that these two things could not work together. Ever. You could be one or you could be the other but the two together we're like water and oil. They just don't work. But now I see differently, I and many other young LGBT people both male and female know that these two can work together. 

I didn't go to a church school, I wasn't shipped off to bible camps or even Sunday schools or regular services, but I have a strong belief, but most importantly I have a fair belief, a believe that I have been allowed to discover on my own. I have been able to see both sides of many different arguments, I have studied many different religions and many different denominations of the same religion. I have Christian friends, Muslim friends, Sikh friends and Jewish friends. We all have many different beliefs, often very fundamentally different beliefs but we are all able to discuss what we believe and why we believe it without judgement or pressure to change and it has led, not to conflict or tension but a greater understanding of each other's beliefs and a greater understanding of our different cultures.

I am gay, a huge bone of contention within the Church and across many different religions. From where I stand now in my life I can say looking back I started to realised I was different when I was about 13. Forget the dodgy haircuts and the strange desire to wear dungarees and tracksuit bottoms constantly, all my friends were developing crushes on guys and I just wasn't. Strange when you think I spend a heck of a lot more time around guys than they did. If you wanted to find me, I'd be kicking a ball around a field of the playground with a group of lads, I saw them take their shirts off and use them as goal posts but still nothing. But I was 13 and I thought nothing of it. I didn't know any gay people, I didn't even know of any gay people. University for me was the best thing I ever did. Yes I had my ups and downs, I fell for people I shouldn't have fallen for but in the end I came out happy (no pun intended). I met people who were out and proud. I met people who were comfortable with who they were and all of this was at a Catholic university. Leeds Trinity was the best thing to ever happen to me. Initially I was scared, terrified. What would people think, what would they say? What would God think? And I am not ashamed to say that when I realised I was gay, that the reason I wasn't feeling anything for these guys I was playing football with was because I was attracted to girls, I prayed. I prayed because I thought that gay and God didn't go together. I will hold my hands up and say I can't remember when it happened but I do remember that it wasn't the LGBT community that helped me come to terms with it but the Catholic community. I was told, and I realised that in the bible, in Christianity, we are created in God's image and if I had a problem with who I am, then I have a problem with God. Not once was I told I was condemned, never was I told I wasn't accepted or that myself or my beliefs were less than those of anyone else. In the bible the sin of the act of homosexuality equates to that of sex before marriage. It is essentially the same sin, there is no difference in if it is a man/woman man/man or woman/woman. ( please jump in if I've gotten something wrong).

So where does this all fit in with the documentary? Well, this documentary showed children, young children, some as young as 5/6 years old preaching the holy spirt and the word of Jesus. It showed adults preaching and teaching these children very complex and controversial issues and those children taking them to heart and preaching them themselves. Children 8/9 years old talking about issues such as abortion and creationism, healthcare and politics and it made me realise something during these interviews. These children were not 'thick' or 'uneducated' they were very bright, very intelligent individuals who will have a huge impact on the future of their county and the world. Over 25% of the population of America call themselves Evangelical Christians, so surely, we should be teaching these children the positive messages, the ways to bring people closer to each other and to respect each other. If these children have the capacity to take on the negative messages and the 'extreme' views of Christianity they can take on the positive, love thy neighbour message. Yes these children are important, but the world needs less people telling groups that God hates them and he doesn't want them in his church. The world needs these children to grow up accepting all people, no matter their background, gender, sexual orientation or personal history. 

Honestly I don't really know what message I'm trying to get across (and several glasses of wine may have been involved in this post) except that the world and the church needs to stop pushing people away. If there are any rules and regulations, terms and conditions if you would, they'd be the Ten Commandments. Where is the hate? Where is the non acceptance? Nowhere, because the fundamental message is love. To work together and help each other. Jesus never talks about homosexuality, but he actively condemns divorce. Now after this documentary these camps were shut down. The powers that be saw this exposé, this documentary and saw what these children were being exposed to and they put a stop to it because of how damaging it was, how upset and emotionally unstable these children were becoming. Imagine though, imagine how much better the world would be, how many less wars, how much less tension there was if these children were taught positive messages. If they were taught how amazing the world is and how valuable each person was rather than being told that governments and lying and homosexuals are responsible for Hurricane Katrina. The children and the whole world would benefit so much more.