I wonder whether anyone has given a thought lately about which way Western society is heading? I got a nasty shock a week or so ago when I saw the cover of The Sunday Times Magazine of September 2; a tombstone with the stark and shocking legend:
Lest we forget By 2021 a third of us will live alone How many will die alone too? Andrew Smith - November 30, 1965 - May 13, 2006
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe it is because I am in a position where living alone is more of a reality than the majority; but the cover had the same effect on me as the warning that miraculously appeared in Belshazzar's palace that was interpreted by the prophet Daniel in the Old Testament. Since then pronouncements like the one above have been referred to as the "writing on the wall". I felt profoundly sad.
I have no pretensions to be a Daniel, however common sense does indicate that in the larger more impersonal world single people are on the increase and they are at risk. Although in Malta we are saved from "slipping through life's cracks" because of the constant presence of extended family and friends, there are those who subconsciously start shutting doors on the outside world, slowly and imperceptibly, till those around get so used to not seeing the person concerned, that, should he or she one day snuff it, as Andrew Smith did last year, it will be the smell of decomposition and not the loss that will finally alert other people to the fact that there may be a dead body in a house. Still, mercifully, this is very difficult to imagine happening here, but, abroad, in the big cities, it is a reality. Thousands die alone and unmourned every day. Are we to be the blessed exceptions? I somehow doubt it... at least not for much longer.
People who live alone do so for a variety of reasons. They may be divorced or separated. They may be people who find it hard to get on with others. They may be widowed. Above all I am convinced that many, the majority in fact, are deeply hurt. They are hurt by the continual rebuffs that single people receive in a society that, superficially, is instinctively bent on reproducing itself and is centered entirely on the concept of heterosexual marriage and that's it; period; full stop; end of story! Because, for whatever reason, these people are not mainstream, the more sensitive of them may feel cheated by life and withdraw into themselves, making it even more difficult for those who care about them to help. I have seen this happen to people I know and therefore please do not imagine that this is a hypothetical situation. I have never felt more impotent in my life. I still, years after a particular friend whom I knew and loved all my life passed away, cannot stop feeling guilty for not having done more for her. The explanation is that it was she who put everyone at arm's length and more. Despite that, the niggling discomfort somewhere in my conscience goes on itching like an old scar.
The couples with two point four children are the ideal. Both the state and the Church in Malta consider these family units to be the ones worth sustaining and encouraging, lavishing all sorts of allowances, tax benefits and safeguards on them. The single person is a non person. They do not figure in either the state's or the Church's agendas. When I stopped qualifying as a "zaghzugh", I was shocked when the Lenten Sermons were announced. Not one of them was for me unless I considered myself as "kullhadd". As I never thought I was ragtag and bobtail I gave them up. I have felt excluded ever since. Not from God and not from Christ as I know and am convinced that when the Good Shepherd went to look for the lost sheep it was one sheep only and not for a ram, a ewe and two point four baby lambs. It is the Church as an institution that baffles me because it is run by single people exclusively; single men who dictate policy from the Vatican and who are supposed to have dedicated their life to saving the souls of others. Whether married or not should not make a difference but the Church hierarchy is officially oblivious, not to say intolerant, of the single state in anyone else but themselves! Weird but unfortunately true. In the past, many were those single people who found Saint Gorg Preca's "Muzew"to be a refuge. Today less and less single people would opt for that sort of life.
The state also does not consider single people at all except for single mothers and widows. Are they aware that it is a continually growing section of society? I am unsure as to whether the government is taking its cue from the Church or not, however one gets the impression that the state of being single is just as undesirable and there are absolutely no provisions that can alleviate the already heavy burden of loneliness and make one feel like a valued member of society. If what the tombstone says is remotely true and a third of us will be single by 2021, governments and potential ones had better watch this space as a third of any electorate can make or break them as quick as boiled asparagus.
I would, thanks to Ariel Leve, like to think that poor Andrew Smith did not die in vain. When, after months of dogged research the cadaver was identified, not by the police but by a research team set up by the London Times, the tragically hurt and withdrawn personality of Andrew Smith emerged, piece by painful piece, to form a picture of a man who could be any one of us. I quote, "Andrew Smith must have wondered who would grieve for him or feel his loss. And to live your life knowing that if you didn't exist, nobody would notice, must be so lonely; it's being a ghost long before you have gone".
We tend to get on with our fast and hectic lives without stopping to think of others. We work hard and we play hard too. People who do not conform or fit are not considered worth bothering about. Many of these are single. There are those who grab life by the horns with both hands and like Theseus force the Minotaur to the ground by fighting on. Yes there are single people who can take it all in their stride however even the most positive of them has moments wherein the loneliness, the lack of warmth, the absence of support, the empty bed, the breakfast for one and the tins in the cupboard get to them. That is why both the great two institutions that run Maltese life, the state and the Church, must revise their policies... and fast before they become totally antediluvian.
In her letter to The Times (September 4), Marisa Xuereb, of the Malta Gay Rights Movement, clearly shows that one of the aims of her movement in Malta is some form of recognition of same-sex relationships.
While individual civil rights should be enjoyed by all without exception, it is unacceptable to give rights which give any form of recognition to a couple who are of the same sex. This, for Catholics, is a non-negotiable issue supported not only by the Catholic Church but by many who are not Christians or even believers.
Ms Xuereb gives a list of "freedoms" which she says are enjoyed by European homosexuals but denied to local ones. Since this list is, in her own words, "non-exhaustive", will the adoption of children perhaps be one day included? If so, will the rights of a child to enjoy the complementary roles of father and mother be given any consideration at all?
Nowhere in my letters did I say that the sole aim of marriage for the Catholic Church is the procreation of children. The Church's teachings make it clear that there are two main aims in matrimony: Conjugal love between a man and a woman and the generation and education of children. In homosexual relationships these goals are both missing.
Ms Xuereb also mentioned the "barrage of letters" written by heterosexual persons in favour of homosexual relationships. However, it is to be remembered that there is also a silent majority against all this in this country who, for one reason or another, will not put pen to paper to air their views but whose opinions carry immense weight.
There are, then, those correspondents who assert that Jesus never brought up the subject of homosexuality in His teachings. He did not (St Paul did) but then neither did He mention incest, rape, slavery, racism and a whole range of other subjects. The 10 commandments, which Christ made clear He came to complete not to abolish, encompass all this. These commandments are as valid and as binding today as they were when they were given to Moses on Mount Sinai, unlike those other injunctions contained in the Old Testament which pertained solely to the particular circumstances of the Israelites of the time.
Finally, it is important to state that Christians do not impose their views on others (imposing means coercion and this is evidently not the case) but simply propose the Christian perspective of life which everybody is free to accept or reject. It would be, indeed, a sad day if Christians, faced by adverse criticism, would refrain from advocating those values which, despite life's adversities and their own frailties, make a life lived in the Lord's footsteps such a source of serenity and joy now and, hopefully, lead to eternal life later.
Joseph Aquilina (God Hates Sin, September 4) chose to inform us once again about his barrage of misconceptions regarding homosexuality. He has not yet, however, answered my letter of July 16 in which I asked him to enlighten us as to when and how he made his wise "choice" of "becoming" heterosexual.
Did he choose his sexual orientation after deep thought and elaboration? Did he balance the pros and cons of being straight as opposed to being gay, and finally chose to settle for the orientation that fits sweetly into "God's plan"?
Mr Aquilina also uses other haphazard and misleading terminology. He defines homosexuality as "a lifestyle". Why do straight people have "lives" and gay people "lifestyles"? The words we use to describe these things often affect the way we think about them. This issue has nothing to do with lifestyles. Examples of people with "lifestyles" would include a rave party reveller, a skateboard enthusiast, a workaholic, a rapper, a vegetarian, an avid surfer or a tattoo aficionado.
As a gay man in my 20s, I can assure Mr Aquilina that I have no "lifestyle" which is any different from that of my peers who are straight.
I go to work every day like they do, play football like they do, read as much as I can, travel whenever possible, and so on. Being gay is only a small part of who I am.
And yet he prizes me with this "lifestyle" tag, which I could easily do without. Allow me to ask, is heterosexuality also a life-style?
If Mr Aquilina should decide to let go of his ill-conceived views on the topic and actively seek to get to know gay and lesbian people personally, he would discover, much to his possible surprise, how extremely normal we are. He would maybe appreciate that gay people have many of the same hopes and dreams, challenges and fears that all other people have.
Maybe it's about time we start judging people not on whom they love but on whether they love.
I kept on thinking about this morning's letter of joseph aquilina...yes it hurts and it is troubling, however i forgot to mentionsomething....he quotes Romans 1: 26-27 and yes that is the greatest challenge forlgbt people - much more than the sodom and gamorrah story [ that isclear thats its about gang rape and hospitality] however the roman's story is more tough to understand...and is more direct to sex betweensame sex persons [it could also not be entirely referring to culticprostition or pagan rituals - but rather to sex between same sexpersons]however some time ago i read a brilliant book called 'Calling theRainbow Nation Home' the author is a pastor, a lesbian and lives withher life time partner and who also raised children together...Sundby in her book goes through all her life journey and how sheresolved these issues with God in prayer.. one of the passages shediscussed is actually the Romans passage...she says that Jesus in prayer answered her that yes the act wasunnatural because it was being done by heterosexual people who startedhaving sex with their own sex for mere sexual pleasure - thus it wasunnatural for them....against their own nature [against the will ofGod]as much as it was unnatural for her to have sex with the opposite sex[at one point in her life she was considering marriage with a man]because by doing that she was going against her nature....this is another way of looking and reading that text... and i thoughtits important to share this with all of you......the book is also worth reading....
In answering William Flynn (August 25), saying that Jesus left the subject of homosexuality alone, may I ask what Bible is he reading?
On the contrary, Jesus (God) was always against the act of homosexuality as much as He was against adultery, theft, drunkenness, etc (Galtians 5:21).
The act of homosexuality is a choice some people make. They were not created that way. Homosexuality was never in God's plan and it will never be now or in the future. God's word (the Bible) was not written for an age past but it was revealed by the Holy Spirit and written by men of God for past, present and future ages. God never changes His mind as some would like Him to. If God says that it is a choice a person makes and not God's intentions, then that is what we should be concerned about and not whether we agree that homosexuality is fine and dandy. If we agree with them, then we are as much guilty as they are.
Homosexuality is a choice, a lifestyle that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
They changed the truth of God into a lie and dishonoured their bodies between themselves (Romans 1: 24).
The women changed the natural use into that which is against nature (Romans 1: 26). And the men did the same thing; they changed the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust towards one another; men with men working that which is unseemly... (Romans 1:27). So, please, don't try to convince others (who perhaps never looked at the Bible) that Jesus left the subject of homosexuality out and ignored it.
Jesus loves all people because God is love, but He hates sin.
Church should be the place where a weary soul can come and find spiritual rest and refreshment. For many transgender and gender variant men and women, however, that is not the case. They are met with stares, hostility, and scorn by church going "Christians". Some think that because they are who they are, they believe that God hates them.
My transgender brother and sister there is good news; GOD LOVES YOU! He wants you to fellowship with him. That beloved verse, John 3:16 states: that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. The key word in the verse is 'whoever'. Jesus is all-inclusive. No one group or person has a claim on the gospel. His love and mercy is for all.
Sadly, some churches and Christians have made transgenders and the gender variant to feel unwelcome. They are treated with hostility, indifference, or implied that they are not regarded as redeemable. It's no wonder that many transgenders reject God, the bible, and Christianity all together.
Jesus showed love and compassion to all. He had compassion for those whom society deemed unworthy. Jesus loves all people regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religious affiliation, or socio-economic status. The religious establishment of his day hated him because he was doing the things they neglected; demonstrating love, compassion, mercy, and justice. This was quite revolutionary in that patriarchal society.
I know that some of you were reared in church and had a vibrant faith. You were active in ministry and served God with all your heart. The people who loved you may have rejected you now because of your sexuality or gender. Jesus does not reject anyone who comes to him. There are no rejects in his kingdom. He was rejected by his own people, yet he loved unconditionally.
I wondered if my being transgender and a Christian were compatible. How would it affect my Christian walk? When I embraced the fact that I was transgender and a crossdresser, Jesus didn't toss me aside or reject me. He knew that I would be transgender before I was even born. He knew that you would be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender variant, poor, rich, black, white, brown, or whatever. I consider being transgender a blessing.
My transgender brother and sister, don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Jesus is not the stern authoritarian taskmaster ready to strike you down when you make even the slightest mistake. He wants you have a rich and abundant life.
I read John Beddingfield's 'Family Values' (in the Epistle under 'Authors') and one point he makes is so true; 'Jesus seems never to be satisfied that his family is big enough or strange enough. In the calling of his disciples, he adds tax collectors and fishermen. Added to this are rich folks, civil leaders, military officials, former prostitutes, adulterers, thieves, bandits, and everything in between.' I will add transgender to the list. Jesus wants us to be in his family. He didn't reject me because I am transgender and crossdress. He will not reject you.
Are you searching for real love and acceptance? Let Jesus come into your life. Those of you who have backslidden, come back to Him. He is waiting for you with open arms and a loving and compassionate heart.