Doing theology is a vulnerable process

I shall start with a quote:

Doing theology, daring to speak of God, is always a vulnerable process of self-revealing and becoming, trusting in God’s love and justice. (No wonder those with way too much power and big voices are prone to get a little defensive when new voices dare to speak their truth……!)

Revd Dr Ayla Lepine on Twitter   14/7/20

Detail from the picture The Last Judgement by Michelangelo showing the finger of God reaching out towards the hand of man.
Detail from The Last Judgement by Michelangelo

The thing about speaking about God is that getting it wrong is an option. We speak to others about God to the best of our knowledge and the best of our experience, we don’t know the full picture but we have a loving God who is strong when we are week and is able to use our mistakes. I find it wonderful when Christians confess to getting it wrong and I am troubled about the way some when challenged double down.

When dealing with other people the Christian response is that of Jesus Christ: To make ourselves vulnerable in relation to other people when helping makes them strong. God made himself vulnerable. Jesus embraced his vulnerabilities in order to redeem us.

The world does not understand this. Every time there is a General Synod or Lambeth Conference in the Church of England/Anglican Communion the Guardian newspaper prophesies the death of the church. They cannot understand an organisation that would put the most contentious issues at that time, where different opinions are held, and put them to the top of the agenda to be debated in public. No political party or business would do such a thing, dissenting voices are stifled and contentious issues swept under the carpet. But the values of the Kingdom of God are not the values of the world.

Making ourselves strong in relation to other people makes them vulnerable. That is how to be strong in the world. Sadly too often there are some in the church who have followed this. Only a few weeks ago the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a full personal apology for the abuse boys suffered at the hands of John Smyth QC.

Another example is the response by some Conservative Evangelicals to the Church of England’s consultation Living in Love ans Faith, about issues of gender and sexuality. These prominent Evangelicals produced a video saying that same sex attracted people should not engage in sexual activity. So strong was this video that it was taken down by Youtube as being a hate crime. Why would someone try to stop a consultation taking place? What are they scared of? People who disagree haveng an amiable conversation is a good thing. Both examples are of people in the church hitting down at those who do not have the same power or reputation.

The Evangelical Alliance were on the ITV News on 11 May 2021 talking about the government’s ban on Coercive Conversion Therapy (CCT) claiming it was a ban on praying. They were trying to make out that they were simply praying for people who had asked to change their sexual orientation. In her book Undivided[1], former Christian singer Vicky Beeching tells of going through gay conversion therapy, from prayer and exorcisms to talking therapy. It comes across as being very abusive. Christians should never use their position to hit down, it is the exact opposite of the example of Christ giving up his position of power to become the servant of all.

In Neurotribes[2] author Steve Silberman shows how both CCT and ABA therapy (Applied Behavioral Analysis) are based on the work of Ole Ivar Lovaas, and have a similar system of intervention. A Canadian paper from 2018 refers to ABA as[3] “a troubling — even dangerous — technique of power.” As an autistic person I am worried about anything with a shared history with ABA. I have repeatedly asked those who advocate in favour of ABA to send me details of any scientific studies that show that claims made that it works have scientific evidence behind them. Because of the connection I am very much in favour of the banning of conversion therapy.

[1]Undivided: Coming Out, Becoming Whole, and Living Free From Shame: Vicky Beeching © Victoria Beeching
[2]NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently: Steve Silberman © Steve Silberman 2015
[3] Disturbing Behaviors: Ole Ivar Lovaas and the Queer History of Autism Science: Margaret F. Gibson and Patty Douglas

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