Let Freedom Ring

Pour yourself a quad and put your feet up, it’s a long blog. Before we get started, I’d just like to say that the following opinions are my own and that I realise that some of you are inclined to disagree with me. I understand this but also ask you to respect these things as my opinions and if you disagree not to get all under the collar about it. I know exactly what I’m writing and I write it for a reason. It even sickens me that I feel the need to include this paragraph.

Back in early January I was asked to teach a lesson on MLK day (Martin Luther King day for those Brits who don’t know). Being from England, I had to read up on it all and I quite liked what I saw. Essentially, MLK day is a bank holiday in the US where there is a special emphasis on helping other people and on community projects and suchlike. The best part of the lesson though was when the teacher gave me a DVD of Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.

Now, I’m a lover of good speeches and good speakers and Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my favourite orators. There’s a monument to him in San Francisco which Luke and I visited last summer and it is covered in quotes from some of his speeches. Just walking along a reading a wall of his rhetoric made me so fired up to campaign for equality and justice it was exhilarating. So when I played the whole of the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech to my pupils I was sat there with my spine tingling and a huge grin on my face.

It wasn’t until about half way through however that I realised just how much the fight against intolerance was still going on. I had it in my head that the fight was over. After all it’s now forty years since MLK’s death and part of me had filed him and his campaigning in the ‘done and dusted’ section of history but that’s totally incorrect. Yes, although MLK saw many victories as a result of his campaigning and fighting for equal rights and today we have far more equal rights for people whether they’re black or white but the fight is far from over.

"No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’"

Although the paragraph before talks about being satisfied when white and black people can live without segregation and discrimination, I take the above sentence as covering far more than just the fight for racial equality. After all, we have far better racial equality (though by no means is it perfect) but I don’t think that anybody could say that "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Do nations yet "rise up and live out the true meaning of [the] creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’"? No.

Do we "live in a nation where [people] will not be judged by the colour of their skin" or indeed their social standing, religious beliefs, sexuality, bank balance or background, "but by the content of their character."? No.

The issue in question that has been so bothersome to me is intolerance, and from it the injustice, judging, discrimination, slander and ignorance that is prevalent in today’s society.

It disgusts me, it really does. When I see it, hear it, watch it or read about the intolerance of people the world over for other people who are different I become so angry and sad. For some reason, over these past few weeks I’ve been exposed to more than your average number of stories about homophobic discrimination. Now I don’t know whether this is some sort of chosen period in which all the homophobes joined together and coordinated their gay-bashing but here are three quite separate stories which made my blood boil:

What is it that makes people think they have a right to treat anybody so badly just because they’re different? Those three examples above were all about sexuality related discrimination and that’s because it’s an issue very close to my heart but I know that I could go onto any news site and pull up articles about discrimination because of age, race, religion, sex and a host of other issues. Why is there still so much injustice and intolerance today? It seems that we’ve forgotten a part of MLK’s speech:

"…their destiny is tied up with our destiny… their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

It’s interesting to note, following two of the news stories above, that in the following paragraph, he says this:

"We can never be satisfied as long as [we] cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities… We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only."

So fitting are those two examples that you could almost replace the last sentence with "signs stating ‘For Heterosexuals Only’".

I feel as if we’ve all just dropped the ball over the past few decades and that the debate is no longer as heated for many of us as it once was. I for one plan not to rest until I see equal rights prevail in the country in which I live, and not just in my country but in the rest of the world. I plan not to rest, not to stop lobbying and campaigning until two men can marry. Until two women can adopt. Until all women have the right to choose. Until pay is equal for men and women. Until racism is torn out of all politics. Until people can pray what they want, where they want, when they want to. Until parents are not hassled for presenting their beliefs and opinions to their children. Until free speech is free for all and cannot be bought by offending corporations. Until opinions can be expressed without a police caution. Until people learn that other people have different opinions and that this is their fundamental right. I don’t expect I’ll be resting for a while.

Let’s let (a slightly edited) Martin Luther King say the rest shall we:

"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today my friends – Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

I have a dream that one day nations will rise up and live out the true meaning of the creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith with which I go about my day.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform jangling discords into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing… From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And so let freedom ring

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Muslims, homosexuals and heterosexuals, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

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14 thoughts on “Let Freedom Ring

  1. Hi, interesting read. I had a few things I thought you could comment on, perhaps in a new post?

    Firstly I’m not sure about the ‘men can marry men bit’. After all if we take the definition of marriage laid down in the scriptures (Matthew 19v3-6 & Genesis 2) then same sex couples can’t be defined as married. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be civil partnerships or tax breaks and benefits etc, just that it doesn’t fit the definition of marriage so it must be something else. What jesus says in Matthew 19 is also obvious from biology for those who would want a non-sectarian arguement.

    Secondly I think the concept of tolerance in post-modern sense is obviously false. Tolerance presupposes right and wrong, after all if I tolerate your point of view its because I don’t agree with you. Otherwise I would just agree with you rather than tolerating you! So the very thing that tolerance claims to be against (people asserting that they are right and others are wrong) it actually proves. But of course this doesn’t mean that we have the right to treat people who disagree with us in a horrible way. Treating people who you disagree with dignity and recognising that they bear the image of God as you do is surely just believing the Gospel.

    Thirdly I was wondering what you make of Romans 1. There the apostle Paul teaches that when a society begins to express homosexual behaviour on an increasing scale it is an act of God’s judgement in handing them over to their depraved sinful nature. Again this doesn’t mean that we should treat homosexual people with disrespect, but perhaps equating the increasing homosexual expression in society with MJK’s quote from Amos 5 is not a correct exegesis.

    Lastly I’m not sure what you mean by the God’s children bit. If you’re just referring to all people made equal in God’s image that’s true. But I always took the expression to be what Paul talks about in Romans 8v15-17, which would of course only include people indwelt by the Spirit of God.

    Anyway let me know what you think, you write well, you should think about writing a book sometime!

    love
    Jonx

    • Hi Jon, thanks for the niceness of your comment (compared to whoever that Jimbo guy is below lol)

      1. I’ll answer your point on tolerance first: I agree that some people use tolerance when they really mean full hearted acceptance but that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Rather I’m trying to argue for increased tolerance by way of a decrease in discrimination as seen in those three news stories.

      2. So as for the gay marriage thing, I’m not totally sure of all the ins and outs (though I am inclined to question the status quo slightly on the definition of marriage) but what I’m trying to get at is that I’m not going to stand in the way of something just because I may disagree with it. For example, I don’t agree with abortion but I see that there is a debate and that some people do agree with it and so I’m not going to remove their right to have one. See what I mean? I lumped in gay marriage with things like the right to worship and pray to whoever you want which I obviously disagree with as I’d rather everyone was Christian, but I will fight for a person’s right to do so.

      3. I see Romans 1 as a description of a very corrupt society where it wasn’t so much homosexuality but rather homosexual paedophilia and rampant promiscuity which was the issue. When a society is so sexually depraved as to allow such things then it’s pretty obvious that God’s going to step in as per Sodom and Gomorrah.

      4. The “God’s children” thing was a quote from MLK and I’m pretty sure he was just referring to humankind in general and not necessarily Christians.

      I’d love to claim all of this blog as my own but there are many sizeable portions which are quotes from MLK (eg the last few paragraphs).

      Andy x

  2. Andy,

    Your own homophobe bashing makes my blood boil. What gives you the right to single out these people who want to have an opinion and express it!?!?!

    Anyway, let me tell you something loud and clear. Homosexuality is a MORALE issue. Please understand this point or at least accept it, Homosexuality is WRONG. Not only is it wrong, it is far more serious than such a simple word as ‘wrong’. It is an Abomination and caused God to send down FIRE from the heavens such is the wickedness of it!

    Being gay isn’t just a lifestyle choice or something you are born with. It is utterly base and disgusting defiance of humanity and, more importantly, of God Himself.

    My personal opinion: being gay should be outlawed and punishable by death.

  3. Additionally:

    MLK would never support your views so please do not tarnish his speech with your base thoughts.

    You said:
    Until people learn that other people have different opinions and that this is their fundamental right.

    Lets put that in to perspective. The Almighty’s opinion is that man with man or woman with woman is an abomination. I pray the Lord would soft your heart and open your eyes to the reality of sin and how wicked it is.

    • -I’d hardly call beating people up, discriminating against them and hating on them a valid expression of opinion. Sure, disagree away but don’t defend the hate! Or are you pals with that ‘God hates fags’ church?
      -Homosexuality is NOT a morale issue, it’s a moral issue. Learn the difference.
      -You know what else is an abomination? Lying (Proverbs 6:16-17) How many lies do you tell? Now back off them gays you dirty dirty sinner.
      -Actually, it never says that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of gayness. Instead it was because of their general immorality i.e. demanding the two new guys in the city be gang raped and then Lot offering his married daughter as a replacement. That’s far more sick than being gay.
      -If you admit that somebody is “born with” being gay then how exactly do you justify all this hate you’re giving them?
      -My personal opinion: You need to read those nice passages about not judging (Matt7:1) and forgiveness. Oh yeah, and I think there’s something about a speck and a plank in an eye…? You get the picture right?
      -MLK isn’t here to confirm or deny your statement so please stop being so certain.
      -I’m not arguing against God’s opinion, rather I’m arguing for people recognising that not everybody squares with God’s opinion and that we should learn to stop getting so hateful and hot under the collar when people disagree with us.
      -Thank you for your prayers. I pray the Lord would give you a little more love for those who disagree with you.

      • I could argue the ins and outs of my position for days and I’m inclined to but not with random people I don’t know. If you feel like adding more comments to this Mr Jimbo and Shaun then please refrain.

  4. Ive been thinking about this blog all weekend Andy! I hope your proud of yourself..

    Am big on equality.. when I was younger I borderd on the racist side.. But when challenged with the bible you realise how Jesus treated everyone equally.

    But, we know people he didnt treat equally. 1, Religious Hypocrites and 2. people who would participate in open sin.

    When it comes to Homosexuals, when there whole personality is based around sexual immorality its very very hard to take there opinions seriously. Am always willing to listen, am in college with 2 gay lads and I listen to them and dont slate them. But when asked what my opinions are on homosexuality which I often get asked by many in the class.. I answer “I dont agree with him sleeping with a man, just as I dont agree with you sleeping with people outside of marrige, just as both of ya’s are so open about it”

    Am not going to be like the dopes at Westboro Baptist church, “God hates fags” because proverbs gives a list of things God hates and Homosexuality isnt found within them. But as Christians we have a responseiblity to tell them what sin is, and not accept it. Were all sinners, we know that. But when homosexuals are encouraged by christians with the nice fluffy your ok to be like that type of thing, it causes confusion of what sin is. Which is a problem considering “The law is perfect in converting the soul”

    Anyway, I think this post is getting to long, I may just post a reply blog to it instead.

    As a MASSIVE pro! Martin Luther King is utter genius, shame about him being ecumenical. But his final speech, “I have been to the mountain tops” is amazing! I posted it on my Facebook last week.

    Anyway, keep looking on my blog.. ill get writeing something up..

  5. Hi Andy, as someone who struggles with homosexual temptation as a Christian (due to influences as a young child) I was left a little confused.

    I ofc agree that homosexuals should be loved and shown compassion for but shouldn’t that be for the person and not for their sin? If we start to stand for their equality it shows a support for what they are doing and as a Christian shouldn’t you be standing apart from the world?

    I went through a long time of being completely confused by the attitudes of Christians towards homosexuality, when some churches took a clear stand against and some where willing to have gay clergy. It took a while for me to discern in my own mind where God would have me to be. It would be very easy for me to find a church which is accepting of homosexuals and live a life which wasn’t pleasing to God but would sit very comfortable with me, or to settle in my heart that as a Christian I would have to change my ways, even if that meant the struggle and possibly a celibate life.

    I cannot see how it is possible for you to support Gay rights and then witness to a homosexual about the Lord Jesus, it is a contradiction because at the end you would have to explain to that person that the Bible condemns homosexuality, leaving them confused as to why a Christian would be in support of something that is as many people have pointed out “an abomination.”

    I have a very strong opinion on the matter as you can see and was encouraged to see you take such a bold stance but I just wondered whether you had thought about how you’re attitude would affect your outreach as a Christian in the long run.

    Much respect for you brother :) Paul x

  6. A really interesting post. I think I agree with the thrust, if not the letter, of what you said.

    I think the church rightly point out that homosexuality is contrary to the teaching of the Bible. How can we give people the Gospel if we cannot first highlight what sin is and where it exists? However, this issue is often elevated by some churches above all else. Homosexual practice is seen as more heinous than other, often more serious, ways we grieve God. This can lead to an unhelpful focus on the issue and, in some cases, can lead to a distortion of the Gospel itself. It is hideously sad when the focus of a church becomes a finger pointing exercise at those without to the detriment of dealing with the issues of those within.

    Outside of the church, in our personal dealings we must of course extend the same courtesies and respect to homosexual people as to any other person. At the heart of the matter, homosexual people are still very much people. This therefore commands a level of respect and dignity in our dealings with them that belong to every person we come into contact with. They too are made in the image of God and we must therefore treat them with the dignity and respect that go hand in hand with that.

    Where I hear of good, Christian people turning away homosexual couples from their establishments I am entirely torn on the matter. On the one hand, no matter how repulsive or wrong we may find it, there is a sense in which anyone should be able to turn anyone else away from their own private property if they so wish. If somebody chooses to bar ethnic minorities, women, men, homosexuals or anyone else from their establishment – despite what we may feel about it – part of me feels they should be at liberty to do so (in the same way, we all then have the right to boycott such places for the unpleasant stances they may take).

    On the other hand, if Christians are turning away homosexual people from their establishments on the basis of their homosexuality is it not inconsistent to then allow liars, the covetous, haters, drunkards, adulterers, etc to stay too? Unless we give everyone a long questionnaire to fill in listing all previous and ongoing sin, and bearing in mind we would stop ourselves staying in the process, we couldn’t possibly be consistent in this way. Surely we either expunge sinners from these establishments (which would include ourselves as Christians) or we allow people in recognising that, especially in a business open to non-Christian people, some will practice things we do not agree with and we are inconsistent to accept some and turn away others.

    I think I would err towards saying the former point is the one that should be enforced in law bu the latter should be the guiding principle of the Christian.

    As for Gay Rights, surely it is down to the specific issue as to whether we, as Christians, can support it? When we wouldn’t seek to legislate and discriminate against all manner of other sinful activities we can’t very well single out homosexuality as the only one which we will seek to legislate and discriminate against. Therefore, we must look on an issue by issue basis at what we can and cannot support.

    Central to that is our understanding of equality. Must all people be equal in all things? This is surely impossible? This would be impossible to enact in every regard. In relation to homosexuality, our only question should be ‘does this person’s sexuality impede their ability to fulfil the role which they are seeking to obtain?’

    In a secular job, applying this question, we must answer it ‘no.’ If a homosexual person applies for a job for which they are qualified and able they should not be discriminated against. A Christian, running a secular business, must therefore not discriminate on the grounds of sexuality. In a religious position, applying the same question, we must answer ‘yes.’ If a religious organisation teaches that something is sinful, and yet employs people who undermine that teaching, their ability to fulfil their duties is impeded. No political party would employ a member of an opposing party on the basis that they hold diametrically opposed views. In the same way, a religious organisation that teaches that homosexuality is sinful, cannot be expected to employ somebody who undermines that belief. Really, how we apply equality depends on the role being sought.

    Anyway, I hope you’ll excuse the long-ish reply. These are difficult and sensitive issues that are hard to deal with in a sentence or two. As I say, I think I agree with your general thrust though I am perhaps not so convinced that all Gay Rights issues should be supported as vociferously as others.

  7. Quite clearly this Paul guy, who actually suffers from homosexual temptation has hit the nail on the head! You heard it from the horses mouth! I would like to see your response to this Andrew, you have clearly neglected his response is this because you have been stunned?

    Please clarify

    Love in the Lord
    K

  8. Pardon me for not Cc-ing you in on our private correspondence my dear Kenny.
    1) I doubt Paul likes being called a horse.
    2) This blog is also from another “horse”
    3) I don’t make a habit of being stunned.

    Consider yourself clarified.

    Muchos love and stuff
    A+

  9. How did I boycott them? I emailed him and we discussed the issues there.
    On a scale of this actually being your business to you being a nosey, selfish, gossip loving internet troll, have a guess at where you are.

  10. Kenny you are a nosey, gossip loving internet troll! Not sure about the selfish bit but all the same things are not looking good for you pet

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