Saturday, 17 December 2011
Storm in a teacup?
Is it just me, or are the bible bashers and bigots getting just a little bit more crazy in their attempts to stop progress?
Only last month the leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance, Alan Craig, writing in the Church of
England Newspaper, was comparing gay activists to Nazis. In an article entitled Confronting the Gaystapo, he compares recent gay rights advances to the political battles won by the Nazi movement before the outbreak of World War 2, and David Cameron’s backing of gay marriage to the 1938 Munich Agreement, where Neville Chamberlain attempted to appease Hitler by allowing Germany to annex the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. His evident ignorance of history in no way makes up for the offensiveness of his comments. Does he not know what happened to gay men in the concentration camps during Hitler’s reign of terror? Does he not know that it was a gay man, Alan Turing, who was largely responsible for Britain’s defeat of Germany (a fact also conveniently forgotten by the post war British Establishment, who pretty much hounded him to his death, but that is a different matter). Craig didn’t make himself seem any saner when he later backed up his “pertinent” arguments, saying that he wasn’t referring to “ordinary gay people, but the leadership”, whatever that may mean. Fortunately nobody took him very seriously and the whole affair soon fizzled out.
But he is not the only one. Religious leaders are still getting very hot under the collar about the whole marriage issue. Only the other day, the Rev James Gracie was comparing homosexuals to paedophiles and thieves. He’s not homophobic, you understand. He just thinks that it’s a lifestyle choice (like paedophilia and burglary), and we can choose not to be gay. Mind you he also believes that women must not preach in church and that their primary role is in the home. Presumably he’s not sexist either.
I’ve already written a piece on the gay marriage issue and, as I’m already on record as saying, I do think that the words we use matter. That said, please don’t shoot me down in flames when I say I agree that religious establishments should not be forced to conduct same sex marriages. Religion is surely a matter for personal conscience or belief, and should be completely separate from the state. It isn’t, but it should be. The only legally binding marriage (whether it be that between a man and a woman or two people of the same sex) should be a civil one. If people should then want to go through some sort of religious ceremony, then that should be a matter for them and their consciences. It should carry no legal weight whatsoever. That way, individual churches would be able to choose what path they would prefer to take. This is nothing new. I know of at least one Church of England minister who would marry divorced people in church and who, long before the introduction of civil partnerships, would also bless gay unions. Clearly there has always been room for manoeuvre. You just had to shop around.
So why are religious leaders so quick to turn down this extra source of income? Let’s face it marriage ceremonies bring in a lot of money. The majority of couples who marry in church have hardly ever been in a church in their lives and probably don’t go again once they are wed. Does the church question them closely about their religious beliefs? In most cases, probably not. They are quite happy to take the money, knowing full well that the only thing on the bride’s mind is how pretty she will look in that nice white dress. For most the only significance of a church wedding is that the bride can, for one day, believe she is Kate Middleton. Given that the new law does not force faiths to conduct same sex marriages, but allows those faiths that have no objection, to conduct civil partnership ceremonies on their premises, I can’t see why so many religious leaders get so het up. Isn't it better just to put up and shut up, and of course look forward to all that extra revenue?
It would seem so, Baroness O'Cathain who put forward a motion in the Lords to annul the new regulations, that came into force on 5 December, withdrew it at the last minute, before it could be voted on. Finally common sense prevailed and the bill went through unchallenged. All just a storm in a teacup then.