Tag Archives: Church

Author Interview: Greg Hogben

I had the fortune of connecting with this brilliant author on Twitter several months ago. I am so glad, because I enjoyed reading and reviewing his thought provoking book, My Daughter’s Army. It is one of those books that when you finish, you won’t see things the same way. I learned a great deal from reading his book. It is a privilege to introduce to you, Greg Hogben.

1) Where did you grow up?

I grew up on the South Coast of England in a county called Sussex south of London.

2) What was your childhood like?

It was a typical British childhood for that area of the country. We had the South Downs to explore and the seaside town where I grew up was always busy in the summer. It wasn’t until I traveled that I appreciated how much we had just by growing up where I did.

3) What was the first book you ever read?

Hmmm, that’s a tough one. The story I most clearly remember reading from beginning to end is Charlotte’s Web.

4) When did you discover you were a writer?

To be honest, I have only recently come to consider myself a writer. Even though I’ve been fortunate enough to have two books published, the title ‘writer’ still sounds odd to me. I still get a kick out of being described as an author.

5) Who are some of your favorite authors?

I loved the Harry Potter books, but The Casual Vacancy is perhaps my favorite JK Rowling book. She nailed the class system in Britain exactly right, to the point I could change any given character’s name with someone I know and her description would be perfect.

6) What are some of your favorite books?

I recently enjoyed the the Monstrumologist trilogy by Rick Yancey. I’m also a huge fan of Stephen Fry and anything he writes. His humour, honesty, and his wit never ceases to impress me.

7) What specific things did you do to perfect your writing?

I don’t think I did any one particular thing. Like most people I tend to write, re-write, edit, and edit again until it feels like it fits. The problem with writing a book is that you become so involved in it that sometimes you become blind to what someone who is reading the story for the first time will catch instantly, such as holes in the plot, going off on a tangent, or repetitive language. I relied heavily on friends and family to give me the harsh truth. I felt some personal pressure with this book. The hardest part of writing My Daughter’s Army was to try and do justice to the real-world stories of the adversity women face.

8) When did you begin blogging for the Huffington Post?

About three years ago. I wish I could write more, but the past two years have been taken up with research for the book.

9) How did you get involved in LGBT, human and women’s rights issues?

I have always been involved with LGBT rights. As a gay man, I have lived under the laws enforced by the government (both in the UK and the USA) and have been affected first-hand by the results of inequality. Many of the anti-gay groups protested that Marriage Equality was redefining traditional marriage or that their religious freedom was somehow put at risk . What many opponents failed to talk about was how the inequality affected gay people’s pensions, healthcare insurance, immigration status, taxes, adoption/parenting rights, etc. And still, in 2016, there is a ridiculous number of states in America where business owners STILL legally can fire someone for being gay. It was this kind of injustice that led me to see the world differently. You begin to notice how people are treated, how their ‘worth’ is quantified. The more you look for it, the more immediately apparent it becomes. That’s what led me to investigate women’s rights issues.

10) Was there a particular incident that provoked you in becoming an advocate?

About 9 nears ago I read a story of a lesbian couple who were on the first day of their cruise out of Miami. One had been playing with their kids on board before they departed when she suffered an aneurysm and was rushed to hospital. Because their relationship was not recognized by law the hospital forced her partner of 18 years to remain in the waiting room and wouldn’t allow any input with regard to her healthcare.  Though her entire immediate family were just feet away, she died alone because of the hospital’s bureaucracy and the law in Florida. I remember how angry and frustrated I was that this couple’s last moments together were stolen from them.

11) What has your experience been thus far as an advocate?

It has been very rewarding. On the side of LGBT rights, it has been amazing to see how much things have changed in just the past three years. The changing laws bring hope that full equality is on the horizon. On the side of women’s rights, it is more frustrating. There is still an alarming number of women around the world who are oppressed or are living in modern slavery. The problem is so huge, yet so many people don’t seem to know about it. The statistics on human trafficking, honor killings, acid attacks, and rape are overwhelming. But with more awareness and pressure, especially from the West, hopefully things will begin to change for the better. Women in Saudi Arabia were able to vote (and run for office) for the first time this year. Seventeen women were elected to public office. It’s this kind of change, even if it’s just the first step, that is needed in every region of the world.

12) Did you always want to be an advocate for a cause?

I have learned that raising awareness is the first step to change. That’s what I want my role to be through my book and through social media. There are thousands who maybe don’t see themselves as active advocates, but the truth is raising awareness is a form of advocacy. The support of an issue, and a voice added to the crowd will and does make a difference. I became an advocate for women’s rights because I discovered and investigated the issues.

13) What are some of the principle things you’ve learned in doing this work?

The world can be a terrible place, and the horrific examples of what man is capable of are far too numerous. It’s enough for anyone to despair and shutdown. But at the same time, you can see people desperately trying to make a change and it restores your faith in humanity — whether it’s volunteers who give their time, professionals who donate their skills, or people who give whatever they can afford to help someone they don’t know.

14) What inspired you to write your second book, My Daughter’s Army?

The inspiration came from the desperation of LGBT kids committing suicide because their families, church, and even local politicians were telling them ‘God hates gays’. Many were (and, sadly, still are) being thrown out by their parents and in the past many of those kids were turned away from homeless shelters if they confessed they were gay. I am not a religious man, so I can only imagine how that must affect anyone’s faith. So I wanted to write an alternative to everything they’d heard all those years. What if God didn’t hate gay people? What if he trusted a gay man to raise his daughter? That was the original concept. It was through researching what issues I thought a modern day female messiah would preach that the book became about more than challenging the concept of a few out-of-context verses from the Bible, and more about the power people have when they don’t rely just on prayer.

15) Did you experience the things you wrote about?

I have experienced my fair share of homophobia. Living in central Washington DC during the years that led up to marriage equality there weren’t many weekends that you didn’t see some kind of demonstration or protest on the National Mall. It’s impossible not to take it personally when people are holding a picture of two nooses with the caption ‘the solution to gay marriage’.  In my twenties I was lucky enough to travel a great deal of the world from Europe, to the Middle East, Asia and Australia. I have seen firsthand how women are oppressed around the world. Being young, I acknowledged it, but didn’t grasp it the way I do now. With the advent of social media you can read people’s voices and get a better sense of what that kind of oppression means and leads to.

16) What do you believe is needed to see change?

Awareness. That is first and foremost.

17) Lastly, what advice would you give to anyone starting out as a writer?

If you are passionate about writing, don’t give up. If you have a story you feel needs to be told, tell it. Writing the first draft of a novel is an incredible achievement in itself, something millions fail at.  Celebrate it! There are a thousand websites telling you how to write, what to write, that it’s hard to write good characters, and nearly impossible to get published. Stay away from them. And finally, many of the best novels come from indie publishers. Not only are they passionate about books, they are incredibly supportive, which is priceless.

Greg Hogben is a British author based in Washington DC. Greg is a human rights advocate with a particular focus on raising awareness of worldwide women’s rights and LGBT equality. Follow him on Twitter and his blog with The Huffington Post.

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Christian Know-It-All’s

Do you know them? Have you come across them too? They’re all over the internet.

Everyone has a blog, or a platform lately. Have you noticed everyone has something to say?

Christians bloggers especially, with their puffed up piety and superiority. They swear they know-it-all.

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I can’t help but detect a hint of arrogance and condescension in their writing. Reminds me of those judgmental Christians you find at Church. You know the ones I’m talking about? The ones who act like they got it all together, who do no wrong and tell you their false opinions of you?

It’s amazing what tone a blog can take, when the bloggers themselves write as if they know-it-all.

I hope to God I don’t ever come across that way here. I do not claim to know-it-all and never will. I am forever learning.

I have had bloggers who are in the “niche” unfollow me on Twitter or Facebook, because of my stance on topics such as homosexuality, gay marriage, pornography, etc. They seem to believe their opinions are worth more than mine and they’re only reserved the special right to speak their minds and write what they believe. Even if I don’t personally agree with it.

Truthfully, I come across and read a lot of things I don’t personally agree with. However, you won’t be find me unfriending or unfollowing them because they believe differently than me.

Yes, there seems to be a certain “acceptable” group, I shall call them, the cyberspace clique. Reminds me of high school. So glad I’m passed all that. Perhaps this is why I don’t care for the term, Tribes, it doesn’t hold a good connotation for me.

One thing I do notice among these peers is they are young. I have nothing against the youth. But to whom I refer, they seem to come across as know-it-all’s. Which quite frankly, they have not fully lived life yet to be giving such assertions.

Mind you, these are “Christians” we are talking about here.

Where is the humility? How are they truly representing Christ in their writing or actions? They act superior, all knowing ones, who will correct others in a heartbeat. They will point blank disagree with you, unfriend you and then write about it on their blogs, hoping you won’t notice.

They are good writers, they are mastering their craft well. Yes, they are accepted and revered in their cyberspace community. They pat each others back, speak sweet nothings to each other and then shun those who don’t believe as they do.

They spout their arrogant and pious pontifications while hiding behind the cloak of religion and doctrinal precipices.

I can understand why Ghandi said, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I couldn’t agree with him more. I would add to this, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christian bloggers.”

Dear readers: This is my platform, where I have the right and freedom to write uncensored, share my thoughts and speak the truth. My prayer recently has been that we go beyond the superficiality of religion, piety and cliques, to representing Christ in action, with love and humility. Even if we don’t agree with each others stance, theology or position. We should be mature enough to treat others how we would want to be treated, even if we don’t agree. We need to remember that we are not know-it-all’s or better than anyone else or superior to one another. Only Christ reserves that right, stature and position, not us. Thank you for reading and God bless you.

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Evicting Jesus

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Today I have been reflecting on the state of affairs with the Church and it’s members. Those who go on Sunday’s, fill up the pews and then walk out unchanged. Church has become nothing more than a social club or coffee clutch.

And we wonder why the world doesn’t respect Christians.

I can’t quite blame them. We are wishy washy, sensual, carnal, powerless, materialistic, selfish and self seeking. We only care about ourselves, our agendas, our concepts, our dreams and our works.

We appease our conscience by doing missions work or by feeding the homeless every now and then.

We Christian’s have been acting “politically correct” as not to offend anyone. We basically want our cake and eat it too.

I have decided not to mince words or keep silent anymore on issues I believe need a spotlight.

Lately, I have been noticing that Christians are walking on egg shells around nonbelievers.  They don’t want to offend.

I am all fine and dandy about this to a point. But, when I have to make excuses for the sake of unbelievers or told to be sensitive to nonbelievers or to keep silent about my faith, then that’s where I draw the line.

You know why?

Because nonbelievers do and say whatever the heck they want  and no one says a word to them. Yet I’m suppose to keep my mouth shut, not say anything about my faith for fear they will be offended or feel uncomfortable?

I walk down the streets of Manhattan and I am assaulted by unbelievers cursing up a storm and acting in offensive ways. I can’t do or say a thing about it either. But yet, I have to be careful around them for being a Christian?

I’m sorry, but there is something terribly wrong with this picture. For me, it’s called compromise. We want to please everyone, but if we call ourselves a Christ follower, then God requires us to please Him first.

Listen, I’m the last person to get in someone’s face and force them to believe in Jesus. But I sure as hell won’t be keeping silent or behaving like I’m not one. I don’t have to be ashamed of Jesus Christ.

Why do I have to make excuses or keep silent that I’m a Christian amongst  unbelievers?  Oh I see, I have to tolerate them, but they can’t tolerate me?

I presume I have to apologize for my mere existence or for the air I breathe too?

No one is apologizing to me for being a Muslim, Buddhist or Satanist? I don’t expect them to, but nor should they expect me to either.

The way I see it is this, if you are Christian, then you are a Christian, period. I shouldn’t have to squirm, apologize or pretend I’m someone other than who I am to please anyone.

Nor should I have to censor what I write or believe either. With all due respect, if you don’t like what I have to say, you don’t have to read or subscribe to my blog. I’m not here to win any popularity contests. I’m here to tell the truth as I see it. If you don’t agree with it, then please feel free to unsubscribe. I’m not going to compromise my beliefs for anyone… even if it means walking alone.

God gave me the gifts I have and He has blessed me with the ability to communicate and write. He has called me to use those gifts to encourage and edify the Body.

He did not say for us to bury our gifts, He said for us to use them for His glory, not use them for our own gain.

I’ve been reevaluating lately and the more I go on, the more disappointed and disillusioned I’ve become with the state of affairs. The world has seeped into the Church and Christians are acting no different than the unbelievers.

We have evicted Jesus from our Churches, from our projects, from our agendas, from our plans… and mostly, from our hearts. Do we  really expect Him to be cool with that?

Sorry, but this isn’t how it works. Jesus said, “But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33)  He also said, “But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” (Rev. 3:16)

Yes, God is a loving God, but we can’t take His love for granted.

If Christians keep acting like He doesn’t exist as to not offend people, then I’m afraid the state of affairs is only going to get worse, not better.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel like you have to walk on egg shells, make excuses or pretend you are not a Christian for fear of offending unbelievers?

 

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He said He wanted to Kill Me

Last night I decided to go to church for prayer service. Before I was married and had kids, I lived at Times Square Church. I was there every Tuesday and Friday night and all day Sunday. I even served on the choir before someone told me they wanted to kill me.

I never told a soul. I just stepped down quietly from the choir. I mean, who in their right mind was going to stay in the choir after that? Maybe I should have stayed, but deep down, I was disillusioned.

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Early one Sunday morning, I was praying alone in the choir section when I sensed a presence. I opened my eyes to find a tall male standing before me. I recognized him, he was in his choir robe like me. He said he needed to ask my forgiveness. I asked him for what (since I never had any dealings with him). He said for wanting to kill me.

I think I was traumatized at that moment because all I said was, I forgive you. I can’t believe that’s all I said.

Why couldn’t I have told him, “Hey dude, what did I ever do to you to warrant your wanting to kill me?” I mean, wouldn’t that have been more normal?

Eighteen years later, I think back and wish I would have had enough courage to ask him why.

I went through a whole gamut of emotions and questions. All I was doing was praying. Aren’t you suppose to feel safe in church? I did not feel safe at all. I actually never looked at church the same way again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Times Square Church greatly. It is where God brought me, put me, planted me and where I grew up in the faith. It is where I first experienced the presence of God. The preaching is phenomenal and I’ve made great friends there. Many who are now leaders or serving overseas as full time missionaries.

It’s not the church’s fault, it’s not anyone’s fault. However, last night, memories began to flood my mind and emotions began to well up. Yes, I forgive this man, wherever he is. The irony of it all is that I didn’t even know his name. But his face will be forever etched in my memory.

Conceptually, I understood at twenty-seven that evil was using this man as a host. But it’s still hard to grasp something like this magnitude, especially since it happened in church by a supposed brother in Christ. I couldn’t understand it, still don’t and perhaps I never will.

However, since then, I no longer close my eyes when I pray in church. I do for second or two, but then I open them again. I only pray with abandon when I’m alone and in the confines of my home.

I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience in church?  If so, please share. I would love to know I’m not alone.

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