Gay Times itself was in the news last month in connection with our on-line poll asking: “Do you hold any religious beliefs?” More than 2,000 people clicked on the yes-or-no option, to reveal a perfect 50-50 split.
The Church of England Newspaper said in its report that the survey revealed “high levels of spirituality among gays in the UK”. It continued: “Leaders of Christian gay groups have highlighted the growing spiritual hunger that exists amongst the gay community.” Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude lesbian and gay network was quoted as saying: “I’ve no doubt that many people who might have expressed an interest in some sort of faith or attending church have been put off by all the things that have been reported about homosexuality and the Anglican communion. I’m sure many gay people would probably think twice about venturing through the door of an Anglican church, as they may wonder what sort of welcome they would receive. It’s a real tragedy for churches and these individuals who are being put off taking part in a faith journey.”
You can’t blame gay religious groups trying to spin this result, but underneath it all, what does it really mean? Does it mean, as Richard Kirker of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement says, that: “spirituality is more important to members of the gay community than their leadership would often credit.”? Or does it mean that gay people are getting the message that religion is at war with them, and are running for their lives?
After all, if we look at the results of the 2001 census, we find that only 15% of the population at large consider themselves to have no religion. That means that there are more than three times as many non-believers in the gay community as there are in the rest of the country. This hardly indicates “a growing spiritual hunger” – more like a flight to reason.
Interestingly, the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association conducted a survey about religious attitudes among gays at the 2000 Pride event, and got a similar half-and-half result for its question “Do you believe in God?” But there were other questions in that survey that told another story. For instance, “Are you involved in any church or religious organisation?” revealed that 17% said they were, while 83% said they weren’t. (See a full analysis of that survey here http://www.galha.org/survey/2000_07.html)
We also have to ask what exactly “spirituality” means in this context. Is reading your horoscope a spiritual experience? Some people think spending the evening in the backroom of a gay sauna is a spiritual experience. “Spiritual” is one of those elastic words that can be stretched to fit all circumstances and any definition you care to apply to it.
Much more importantly, though, is the question about why any gay person would want to be part of a church or a temple or a mosque. Tell me a religion that isn’t waging a vicious and sometimes lethal war against us. Even the traditionally wishy-washy Anglican Church is getting increasingly nasty. Only last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a TV interview with David Frost, said that he would put the survival of the Anglican Communion before any overt defence of gay people. Now The Daily Telegraph tells us that liberal US bishops are about to do a U-turn on gay rights. The paper reported: “Three years after consecrating Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop, the American bishops appear close to bowing to international pressure and shelving their radical agenda at a conference in June. Leaks from a private meeting of the bishops… suggest that they will ‘repent’ for plunging Anglicanism into turmoil by consecrating Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire. They are also likely to come into line with the rest of the worldwide Church by backing an indefinite ban on the blessing of gay ‘marriages’ and they may even apologise for having authorised them in the past.”
According to several of the bishops who attended the meeting, they would block the consecration of a second openly homosexual bishop if the diocese of California elects a lesbian or gay man. Three of the seven candidates for the post have gay partners.
So, even the liberals, who seemed to be issuing a long overdue challenge to Rowan Williams to stiffen his spine, have now turned out to be invertebrate themselves.
At least at the Vatican they don’t try to cover over their seething hatred of gays with the kind of impenetrable verbiage that the Archbishop of Canterbury uses. With the first anniversary of Pope Ratzinger the Vile, we see the unleashing and encouragement of a kind of anti-gay hysteria that is beginning to do deep damage not only to individuals but to whole communities.
The National Catholic Reporter covered this phenomenon in an article headed: “Boosting the anti-gay troops”. The report: “The church teaching is beyond dispute. The church holds no place for gay or lesbian couples and rejects the idea of same-sex parents.”
It tells of a conference on homosexuality at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, where a French priest, Tony Anatrella, who is a psychoanalyst and consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family, said without qualification that gay couples “were unable to model the sexual difference essential to any child in developing his or her own sexual identity.” He asserted that 40% of children raised by homosexuals became homosexual themselves. He produced no evidence for this claim. He went on to say that children of gay parents could experience “such an altered reality that we could reach the point where we have violence, and what I call ‘civilised delirious behaviour’.” (No explanation of that gobbledygook, either).
At the same conference, David S. Crawford of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, said that tolerance of homosexuality and the giving of gay rights would lead to a society-wide form of “compulsory homosexuality” in which all relations would be “fundamentally homosexual… They all become in this sense, essentially, or at least for legal and social purposes, gay.”
These people may be wacko, but they have highly influential places at the Vatican table, and they feed the sick fantasies of the man at the top. This is the kind of stuff Ratzinger wants to hear. It helps him justify his crazed persecution of gay people inside and outside of his Church.
Meanwhile, in the world of Islam, the Grand Ayatollah Ali-Sistani of Iraq has told his followers that gay people should be killed in the most horrible ways possible. Sistani issued the fatwa on his website on 15 March when he was asked, “What is the judgment for sodomy and lesbianism?” The gentle Ayatollah replied, “Forbidden. Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”
“Spirituality? “Faith?” As my mother used to say to the Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on the door: “Not today thank you”.
Not today, thank you, not any day – ever. Thank you.
Irresponsible newspaper reporting can be extremely dangerous, as ten men in Northern Ireland found out recently. They were all arrested in Coleraine during an old-fashioned cottaging stake-out. The Belfast Telegraph printed not only their full names, addresses and ages but their photographs, too. Although the court only fined them, their real punishment started after the newspaper outed them.
All the men have been subjected to what was called “Ku Klux Klan-type vigilante attacks”. A burning car was pushed against the home of one of them, another has been – in the words of his solicitor – totally traumatised. David McCartney of the Rainbow Project took The Belfast Telegraph to task for its callousness. One of the men had “lost his job, suffered abuse and humiliation, and had been forced to flee his home and his town. He has been forced to seek emergency accommodation at a secret location because of threats,” Mr McCartney wrote. “His vulnerability and suffering was clear for all to see and for those too blind to notice all this, it was reiterated by the magistrate. The team at The Belfast Telegraph should be ashamed of itself. The action it has taken has ensured that all involved are now recognisable, and it has placed all those involved in greater danger than before. It was a totally unjustifiable action and served no purpose – these men prose no risks, as was made clear in the probation service reports.”
The irony of all this is that in the same issue of The Belfast Telegraph that the pictures appeared, there was also a report revealing that nearly two thirds of young gay men in Northern Ireland had considered suicide or had self-harmed.
The crude homophobia that is still rampant in Ulster drives gay people to distraction. It is cruel and anachronistic. It creates almost unendurable loneliness and isolation and that leads otherwise sensible and cautious men to risk it all cottaging. We all need the comfort of human contact, but how do you find it when the culture that surrounds you is dictated a bunch of Neanderthals led by Ian Paisley?
Here’s a message to the editor of The Belfast Telegraph from me: the village stocks have been abolished, or perhaps you hadn’t heard. Or maybe you should take a turn yourself and see how it feels to be reviled by your own community.
QUOTES OF THE MONTH:
“This is not an anti-homosexual gesture.” – Australian premier John Howard, announcing that he intends to veto plans to give civil partnership to the country’s gay community.
“It is an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great city’s existing and established customs and traditions, such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need.” – Wording of a resolution unanimously passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
“In total disregard for the Constitution, homosexual activists in positions of authority in San Francisco are abusing their authority as government officials and misusing the instruments of government to attack the Catholic Church.” Robert Muise, Catholic attorney, launching a law suit against the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for passing the above resolution.