Getting the cross in a twist

In the Church Of England, the gay issue has outed some odd arguments.

Patrick West

Patrick West

Topics Politics
  • Stuff and nonsense

The Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, has caused a fuss for claiming that gay people should seek psychiatric care to help ‘reorientate themselves’. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has called his argument ‘scandalous’ and ‘offensive’, while Cheshire Police has announced that it is to investigate his comments, after receiving a complaint that his views may incite people to attack homosexuals.

The Reverend Gillian Cooke and Dr Alan Sheard wrote to the UK Guardian to point out: ‘Since homosexuality was removed from the international classification of diseases in 1973, any credible moral guidance by our bishops and the Church of England must ensure this is recognised. Christian ethics should not be based on pre-scientific views.’ Martin Reynolds, the communications director of the LGCM, continued in this vein. ‘I am sure that the bishop is a very gentle man and his views are sincere’, said Reynolds. ‘If he wants to say that homosexuality is a sin then he is entitled to his views, but to say it is a psychiatric disorder is wrong.’

Such words betray modern, progressive Christianity’s hopelessly confused thinking. Reynolds gives the impression that the concept of ‘sin’ is now simply a personal judgement, and that it is not to be taken too seriously. On the other hand, the sciences are taken very seriously indeed as a guarantor of what is right and wrong. The likes of Reynolds, Cooke and Dr Sheard seem to be professing a kind of religion underpinned by materialistic moral relativism, which is not What Jesus Said. Do not these advocates of a rationalist religion see the irony of being part of a Church whose central unscientific tenets rely on a wholesale lack of evidence, namely, fairy tales and translation mistakes?

I am not totally for Christian-bashing. Christians are generally good people – often nicer than agnostics. And I defend their right to believe in nonsense, just as we all should defend the right of the likes of Dr Forster to spout rubbish. It is only a matter of time before ‘racism’ is officially classified as a mental illness. When this happens, I hope that all people who call themselves true liberals will stand up and say that people should be permitted to say stupid things, and that the best way of countering unreason in the world is not through censorship, but through argument. Christianity, racism and homophobia share much more than their advocates would care to admit.

  • Ninety-minute bigots

Some people just don’t understand football. When I took a friend to a game once, he came back quite disgusted. ‘Why are these people chanting nasty stuff at each other? I can’t get into all this hatred at all’, he complained. His reaction was reminiscent of a scene in Blackadder The Third, when Rowan Atkinson’s eponymous butler took the Prince Regent to the theatre. Here the future George IV (Hugh Laurie) stands up at the end to berate one actor: ‘You murdering rotter! Arrest him at once!’ Blackadder then has to explain to the dim-witted royal that one protagonist had not actually killed another. It was only a play. It was not real.

This is what true football fans appreciate. Football is a kind of fiction in itself, it is a ritual. The vast majority of fans will happily chant abuse and sing rude songs towards opposing supporters during a game and fraternise with the same opposite supporters after the game. We are 90-minute bigots.

There are times, however, when passion gets the better of us. Leaving Loftus Road after seeing Brentford lose 1-0 to QPR on Tuesday, there was a bit of me that wanted to see a fight, and, more specifically, to see some QPR fans get chased down the street. This is of course nothing to be proud of. I remember having the same feeling after we lost to Stoke City in the play-off final two seasons ago, a sensation exacerbated by the knowledge that had we beaten Stoke, their charming fans would have certainly terrorised us outside the ground.

Yet the feeling only lasts for a few minutes. I soon bumped into two old school friends just outside Shepherd’s Bush tube station, both of whom were Rangers supporters. We had a good chat, and everything was fine. The aggressive feeling had completely gone, replaced by shame. At times like these I do think my friend is right – football does bring out the worst in people. Then again, you might as well complain that Schindler’s List is too depressing, or that Braveheart makes the Scots aggressive. This is the point of entertainment: to generate emotions.

And there’s always the home game against the Rs in February.

  • Derision down under

One of the most grating things about our relationship with QPR is that we hate them much more than they hate us back. This is only their third season in the third rung of the English football league, and most of their supporters feel their proper place is in the Premiership, or at least the First Division. They (rather laughably) regard Chelsea as their true rivals and consider the Bees very small fry. It is frustrating to be ignored like this. We would much rather be hated, as this demonstrates that your team is admired and feared – in short, taken seriously.

Thus to hear the British press complaining about how beastly the Australians are being to the English rugby team at the moment misses an essential point. It is no coincidence that this mood has recently developed in tandem with the English rugby team becoming serious contenders for the mantle of greatest side in the world. It is a good sign. We are becoming the Manchester United of international rugby: hated because we are the best.

Would we prefer our egg-chasers to be like our cricketers, whose comical displays Down Under merely generate howls of laughter?

Patrick West is the author of Conspicuous Compassion: Why Sometimes it Really is Cruel to be Kind, Civitas, 2004. Buy this book from Amazon (UK).

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Topics Politics


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