Saturday, 29 July 2006

from the papers

Geoffrey Rowell writes in The Times that The example of Jesus points the way to a meaningful pattern of prayer.

Also, Michael Binyon writes about York’s local hero — the first Christian emperor. ( Yorkshire Post news report here.)

In the Guardian Nicholas Buxton, a participant in the BBC’s Monastery series, now an ordinand at Cambridge, writes Face to Faith.

Also, Karen Higginbottom writes about graduates who don’t want to enter the corporate world finding their true calling in religion, in Keeping the faith.

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph writes about Archbishop Milingo in Zambian archbishop reclaims Korean bride.

This week’s Church Times has Jonathan Bartley writing that Christians are in denial on faith hate.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 29 July 2006 at 8:46am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Jonathan Bartley wrote: "in the past 12 months the GPA had recorded a 74-per-cent increase in homophobic incidents where the sole or primary motivating factor was the religious belief of the perpetrator"

For those who don't kniow, a "homophobic incident" is not a crime committed because of hatred for homosexuals. It is just expressing a negative view about anything to do with people who classify themselves as homosexual.

These incidents will presumably include the couple who were reported to the police for complaining that they were not allowed to put a Christian leaflets alongside the pro-gay liberal leaflets in a town councils' premises; and maybe the lady who was reported for saying that she thought that only male-female couples were suitable to adopt children (in a radio debate). It seems that the "homophobic incident" system is a way to generate pro gay propaganda, and generate "hate" against people only because of their moral convictions!

What is more, other religions are much more antagonistic to homosexuality, and more likely to use violence. Yet classifying HIs only by "religious belief", rather than which particular religion, tars Christians with the same brush as religions that we reject ! - including satanists, presumably..

As Jonathan wrote "For these Christians, it is unthinkable that Christian views about homosexuality could ever be expressed in anything but loving ways". Yet views about Christians are being expressed in much less loving, and deceitful, ways - under the guise of opposing hate!

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 29 July 2006 at 2:59pm BST

I think Mr. Bartley and I are probably laboring on nearby vines in pretty much near sectors of the Great Vineyard.

I do not expect my ongoing curiosity about the possible hidden, and not so hidden, links - between forms of negative religious narrative about non-straight (and straight) folks - and occasions of closing doors, denying resources, and making opportunities taboo (up to and including overt status violence and/or direct physical violence) - to cease or actually slow down during the remainder of my lifetime.

I suppose this is because of my Tikkun-like calling into various forms of the vocations of healing. I see the effects of violence daily in my professional work. So far, one of the special qualities of institutionalized Status Violence is that its low-level, customary interferences with negatively defined regular Queer Folks being able to get on with their lives in safety and liberty happens quite reliably without anybody in particular having to will, intend, or choose it to specifically happen. The exquisitely disembodied and depersonalized activities of Status Violence are amazing to behold at times. I think of a variation on Hannah Arendt's pregnant phrase, the banality of wrong.

How strange are these flat earth theories of allegedly innately evil dimensions of human sexuality or human embodiment, derived so painstakingly from our religious heritage and from how some believers among us wittingly or unwittingly choose to read their scripture.

Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 29 July 2006 at 3:33pm BST

For additional investigation resources, we might see the following links. Then by all means widen the empirical and hermeneutic circles. ERIC is Education Resources Information Center, and their database is online, free.









The research on antigay violence is ongoing, as well as our discussions. I think it rather an extreme position, however, to summarily dismiss all reports or mentions of antigay violence as mainly an exaggerated or delusional or self-aggrandizing strategy to manipulate public sentiments via suspect claims. (Well, at least in our good old violent, aggressive USA contexts.) Maybe U.K. and Europe are older, calmer, less stirred up national cultures?

What, for example, does the repetition of the tag word, Abomination, do in almost any 21st century secular or religious context - except seem to imply that something so horrible is going on that some form of counter-violence may be needed to resist, escape, or defeat the evil? Archbishop Akinolas statement? TEC is a cancer that must be cut away, removed from the body. This sort of speech uncannily mirrors the vivid narratives we hear from others who are not speaking metaphorically, as in Arthur Dong's filmed interviews. (AT:

Well, Leviticus is plain about the death penalty for men at least.

I invite any conservative believer who cares to post on TA to briefly explain how their invisible hermeneutic for a simple, plain, direct reading of scripture avoids having to call for the death penalty for same sex activities. (Wow, that 400 word limit is a challenge.)

I wonder if a range of varied comments from believers on the right might help us avoid summary harrumphs and superficial dismissals of the roles that negative religious thinking might play – can play – in generating antigay violence needs to start with how we read Leviticus as a meme, deeply planted in western and other world cultures.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 29 July 2006 at 9:10pm BST

Ooops. My apologies for omitting two Matthew Shepard Foundation page links.


These reference extreme Christian Right USA statements.

The starting discernment question may be: When milder negative religious Christian statements are made about LGBTQ folks, do they effectively serve to reclaim the negative religious truth from its outrageous extremes? Thus, empirically having a moderating and anti-violence impact?

Or, do more moderate negative Christian conservative statements innately evoke witting or unwitting resonances with the more extreme - and extremely violent - narratives which categorize LGBTQ folks as fearful, loathesome creatures? Thus, empirically having an encouraging effect, intended? Unintended?

I really would love to see some well-designed studies operationalizing iterations of these questions. If you didn't already know better, you might think that skilled conservative believers were busy, designing just such studies.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 29 July 2006 at 10:02pm BST

The lessons don't apply just to Christians. I give thanks that there are still honest souls who enter into dialogue. I often pray that souls of other faiths contemplate how our discussions could apply to their own faith.

Denial and "which comes first the chicken or the egg?" are pertinent as much to homosexuality as to war and peace. Some say there can not be peace/freedom from sin until there is full disarmament/repentance. But then there will never be peace/purity because we can not start at the perfect point.

We can agree on a vision e.g. world peace, purity, sustainable economies, beautiful environments. But then we have to work out how to bungle our way through, mitigating the worst of our excesses, forgiving ourselves for our inadequacies, and leaving room for "the other" (for one day our descendents could be the orphaned ones).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 1:41am BST

Perhaps, dan, you might like to set out some evidence that the Christian assertion that adultery is sinful leads to hate crimes against adulterers?

BTW, what does "some well-designed studies operationalizing iterations " actually mean?

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 3:18pm BST

In response to Dave who wrote:
"For those who don't kniow, a "homophobic incident" is not a crime committed because of hatred for homosexuals. It is just expressing a negative view about anything to do with people who classify themselves as homosexual."

The official (ACPO) definition of "homophobic incident" as used by the British police forces, see e.g.
is as follows:
Homophobic Incident
Any incident which is perceived to be homophobic by the victim or any other person.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 4:37pm BST

Rather a chilling website, Simon. It is a profoundly dangerous state of affairs when something is said to be a crime merely because someone (not even necessarily the "victim") subjectively thinks it to be "-phobic".

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 7:34pm BST

No reactions to the Constantinian commemmoration at York, surely the most significant event recorded in your Saturday round- up!
Can anyone enlighten me as to the identity of the sculptor of the statue outside the Minster which figured in the celebrations?

Posted by: clive sweeting on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 8:05pm BST

An "incident" may or may not constitute a criminal offence, as it clearly states.
Notice also that a similar definition applies to all other categories, e.g.

Faith Related Incident
Any incident which is perceived to be based upon prejudice towards or hatred of the faith of the victim or so perceived by the victim or any other person.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 9:49pm BST

In the civil rights museum in Birmingham Alabama one room consists of large reproductions of newspaper photos from the 1950s and 60s. As you walk through, you activate recordings from news reports, newsreels, etc. Some of the voices are overtly cruel and incite violence. Some, and to me the more chilling, are quiet voices, saying things like, "The GOOD nigrahs don't want to integrate. They want to live with their own," "OUR colored aren't pushy. They know their place," and the like.

The quiet voices of 'nice' people enable the hateful screams of lynch mobs. And no, that's not based on a survey - it's based on common sense and knowledge of fallen human nature. Language that demeans and dehumanizes, however seemingly reasonable, helps allow violence.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 9:53pm BST

"Notice also that a similar definition applies to all other categories, e.g. Faith Related Incident"

That's very helpful, Simon. Thanks.

"a Christian leaflets alongside the pro-gay liberal leaflets"

I resent your contrasting "Christian" and "pro-gay liberal" as MUTUALLY-EXCLUSIVE, Dave. It's perfectly possible (and perfectly *Biblical*) to be BOTH.

[Furthermore: "the lady who was reported for saying that she thought that only male-female couples were suitable to adopt children (in a radio debate)"

That's not a criminal offense, but certainly potentially *slanderous*, if she can't back that up w/ empirical evidence (which we both know, she can't).]

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 9:59pm BST

Cynthia Gilliatt observes how 'nice' people can give a sort of legitimisation to nasty behaviour.

This is a UK tabloid (=rightwing populist press for our colonial friends) phenomenon, where rags like the Daily Mail creat a climate where decent god-fearing folk say things like 'well you can't agree with them doing x, but you can understand it, can't you' in respect of (eg) asylum seekers being assaulted by shaven headed members of the decent white majority, etc.

This creation of a climate in which there is more sympathy with the offender than with the victim is one of the most insidious aspects of Murdochised media. Those Christians who, finding practising gays sinful pronounce against them, face the huge challenge of not giving that sort of encouragement to the mob, and it's a responsibility which cannot be ducked.

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 10:06pm BST

Alan commented
Perhaps, dan, you might like to set out some evidence that the Christian assertion that adultery is sinful leads to hate crimes against adulterers?

Not sure that constitutes a parallel, really — it is minorities who are in a vulnerable position, and libidinous straights might think it good counsel not to join in the hue and cry lest they fall victim to it. The Christian condemnation of wealth doesn't seem to cause much mayhem after all...(cough cough).

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 10:09pm BST


Thankyou for the definition. drdanfee, there are so may good links that I am permalinking this thread. Thanks for putting them in one place.

The issues about "what is violence/abuse" does not just apply to gays. For example in NSW, there has been lots of work done around child/domestic abuse. In only the last few weeks the legislation has been escalated to enable the police to impose AVO (Anti-Violence Orders) where they perceive there to be clear abuse but the victim is too fearful or intimidated to find the courage to take out the AVO for themselves. Gays have even less rights than women or children, because there are churches who think that they are rebellious sinners worthy of punishment (so people who want to act out their violence but don't want to be sanctioned by their churches target gays).

My other contemplations this week have been around the idea of worthiness of God's love. God does not love like humans love. God loved Jacob (even though he was a day dreamer) more than Esau (despite all Esau's prowess & accomplishments). Cain never overcame his jealousy that God appreciated Abel's offerings more than Cain's...

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 10:50pm BST

Simon, I followed the link you provided, which is about "HATE CRIME" and proceeds to define it according to the interpretation of the West Midlands police/ACPO.

It enables the police to interview anyone alleged (even anonymously, according to the website) to have expressed a view which someone considers to be -phobic.

This means that not only participants in radio shows but preachers can be reported for biblically orthodox sermons, and threatened by the police with prosecution if they fail to toe the line defined by the local police - in effect now the Thought Police.

And no, it is not slanderous or defamatory in any way to hold that children should only be adopted by male-female couples.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Sunday, 30 July 2006 at 10:54pm BST

Alan Marsh might want to review George Conger's articles in The Living Church prior to the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, and the subsequent discussion on TitusOneNine.

In these articles, Conger+ speculated that there would be controversy in the Anglican Communion over the election of a twice-divorced, thrice-married man as Bishop of Northern California.

No controversy ensured because, as the subsequent discussion on TitusOneNine made clear, a good many heterosexual Evangelicals have been divorced and remarried as well. In fact, the conservative newspaper columnist Cal Thomas has pointed out that conservative Evangelicals have the highest divorce rate of any religious group in the United States.

The American Evangelicals on TitusOneNine were entirely unwilling to condemn divorce and remarriage as adultery or sin, because they themselves would be in the group they were condemning.

Yet remarriage after divorce has been defined as adultery for thousands of years in most historic Christian traditions, as several also pointed out, in some embarassment.

So it is quite unlikely that we would find contemporary American Evangelicals, at any rate, inciting mobs to violence against divorced-and-remarried adulterers. But the reason has more to do with whited sepulchres than with Biblical truth, I am sorry to say.

Posted by: Charlotte Pressler on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 12:33am BST

Howdy AM.

Does your analogy with adulterers fall short of the point, maybe?

If homosexual sex is no more or no less sinful than sex between unmarried persons, then how do we explain - that straight couples in USA motels all over the country are not fiercely attacked on general negative religious principle by outsiders armed with tire irons, knives, or guns, while Queers are?

Just as I write this, I realize that real violence connected to straight sex probably does occur, at least in USA. The spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend betrayed lashes out violently against the offending partner and his or her lover. Maybe this is in fact an old and violent straight story of jealousy? If so, the point is that one person feels betrayed by the other’s outside sexual involvement, and so hits out. This shifts us, maybe, to wondering why nowadays even straight unmarried sex can be viewed in a significant, basic relational frame that seems to help us understand the real reasons for any high violence that occurs; but same sex intimacies cannot ever be relationally good, even if they have existed as an ethical, serious real world relationship for decades and decades of an adult life?

Just off the cuff?

Straight couples get a relational frame to define them. Queer folks get a special nasty immoral-dirty sex frame. We might wish to investigate how each frame encourages or discourages violence. Even when high straight violence happens, it is mostly committed by the offended people involved in a straight jealousy triangle. Have I ever heard about USA outsiders who attacked an unmarried straight couple or a sexually active single straight person, then quoted a traditional condemnation according to one or more of the Bible clobber passages when the police finally catch up with them? Hmmm. Food for investigation, thought.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 2:33am BST

I am a bit concerned about the perception that violence only happens to homosexuals. There are numerous stories of violence being committed against adulterous women (especially young girls who are seduced and come from an extremely orthodox/conservative family - or (horror) have sex with someone of the wrong denomination/faith/ethnic group). A lot of violence against women is justified on the basis that they have not been "good enough". Thus there are parallels between violence to women and gays. Also, by making it only a homophobic issue, it discounts the underlying issue that it is okay to act out violence - provided you choose an unworthy character. Violence is a rapacious beast that is never satisfied. Exclusion and discounting of any group presumes to judge on God's behalf who God will or will not choose to love and want to protect. God causes hermaphrodites (and other variations). It is not our place to judge the potter, it is our place to accept the pots as they are cast and to give them as much dignity and respect as we would like to be given ourselves. Since when did it become a sin to want to be loved or to love and to want to take a mate for life?

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 9:10am BST

Good morning, dan.

You do live in a violent country - "tire irons, knives, guns" - perhaps that is the cause of your perceptions?

But you have, as I expected, completely missed the point. Although the OT prescribes a similar punishment for adultery as it does for homosexual sex, evangelical Christians are not accused of promoting violence against adulterers. But they do not advocate violence against homosexuals either.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 10:31am BST

One of the problems with the Gay Police Association's ad - missed by Jonathan Bartley - is that the ad leaves one with the clearly intended idea that Christians are responsible for all the homophobic incidents, and that these are violent. The striking graphics dominating the ad, of a large Bible beside a large pool of blood, leave no doubt of this.

It's interesting to speculate what the reaction would have been, if the Gay Police Association had chosen to illustrate its ad with the holy book of another religion.

But the ad produces no evidence that Christians are solely responsible for such incidents and that they are violent, and does not give any basis for the Gay Police Association's figures, or how they were produced. This is necessary for the claims to be carefully considered, independently evaluated, and for lessons to be learned.

One of the problems with Jonathan Bartley's column is that he - with a simlar lack of presented evidence - brackets together a very wide range of problems. This over-simplification and sloppy thinking - bracketing, for example all Nigerian Anglicans, Northern Ireland, the British National Party and homophobia - is insulting to the victims of violence, and does not help deal with the causes.

Another problem with both the Gay Police Association and Jonathan Bartley is that neither appear to have considered how being offensive towards all Christians helps deal with the problem of homophobic attacks. Is intolerance the answer to intolerance? Humanity's record suggests otherwise.

As readers of 'Thinking Anglicans' are well aware, many Christians are strongly against all forms of intolerance, including homophobia, and find the roots of their opposition to intolerance in the Christian faith. This issue is a complex and difficult one, and many people get intentionally and unintentionally hurt, emotionally and physically. There have even been murders.

So it would be very helpful indeed if contributers to the debate treated it with the seriousness the question demands, and asked themselves whether their contribution was more likely to shed heat or light.

Posted by: Rob Hall on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 12:37pm BST

The research I am imagining would probably have a best practices enactment of the traditional negative condemnation(s) as its independent variable. At least two independent variable conditions seem needed, one mild to moderate, and the other extreme or vigorous. Each should equivalently reference one or more of the familiar clobber passages from scripture.

The dependent variable would probably be a best practices enactment of some useful measure of violence or readiness for legitimizing violence.
The point of the best practice standards for both variables is - (A) that everybody can see just how something done is a reasonable effort to do either variable as either type of condemnation/intensity, and as resulting impact on legitimizing violence. (B) best practices also need to ensure that the research effort/design actually measures each variable in some reasonable, repeatable way.

I suspect that creative experimenters and field researchers could come up with more than one way to investigate this, and still be meeting reasonable best practice standards. Hence, different ways to study that involve some test of the underlying hypothesis: No relationship exists between traditional religious condemnations of same sex people or same sex acts, and the legitimizing of violence towards LGBTQ people. (Null hypothesis statement.)

The two non-null hypotheses that come to mind are: (A) When/under what circumstances do mild to moderately condemning traditional negative views calm, restrain, or non-violently moderate people of allegiance to a strong or extreme traditional negative legacy view, with the result that those people are less likely to legitimize or do violent things to LGBTQ folks? And/or (B) When/under what circumstances do mild to moderately condemning traditional negative views resonate, connote, and get understood as superficially softened versions of the real, extreme negative traditional views, with the result that hearers are more likely to legitimize or do violent things?

While these specific versions of the hypothesis have not been precisely investigated all that much to date, many of the studies of antigay beliefs/prejudices and violence have repeatedly noted an association between traditional religious condemnations/beliefs and some indication of low to medium, to high level mistreatment. So far as it goes, that data seems embarrassingly reliable and repeatable.

In any case, none of the notion that there might be a common sense empirical connection derives from liberals/queers who are suffering grand delusions of persecution. Thought experiments are welcome. Real experiments would be even better at this stage of the discussion.

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 3:01pm BST

Perhaps then, Christians need to think about the effect their words have, irrespective of their intent.

Basically, evangelicals will have to come to realise that in my and many other people's view, they follow a homophobic religion which does not fully value and accept gay people and their relationships as morally equal to those of heterosexuals.

Until evangelicals stop doing this and recognise the deficiencies of their religion, then the Gay Police Association have got it absolutely right. Evangelicalism needs to be challenged and shown for what it is.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 3:41pm BST

Howdy again AM,
I guess I am destined to keep missing the point. I take it, then, that your skirts are clean, and that antigay violence is so deplorable you have nothing to do with it. Never have, never will, why are we even talking about it? Your non-violence towards LGBTQ neighbors goes so far, so fast, as to find discussions of antigay violence and negative religious views suspect. Somebody among us is trying to paint conservative believers falsely, in a silly and bad light. Lacking non-verbal context in these posts, once again, it sounds like conservative believers remind us that they are especially pure and untouched by the world. I readily admit my hands are dirty. It is my work, partly. But only partly. The rest is how I discern my believer's vocation, thanks to baptism; which is sort of like Jesus always telling me to have no fear to get my hands dirty - in this instance by helping out targets of antigay violence.

The rest of us who are liberal enough, deluded enough, and ungodly enough to concern ourselves with antigay violence -and as Cheryl reminds us, violence against women/girls and the common cultural-religious roots that violence might have with antigay violence - well, we still have a call to discernment of these connections. Maybe we will just have to muddle on without your immediate help in our investigations. If any piece ever starts to make sense, feel free to join in.

So, maybe, for a biblical believer, it is hard to grasp antigay violence as such, because the antigay part just never registers very deeply at all, lost all too soon in undulating waves of godly compassion for sinners. Lost all too soon in steady understanding that the world is ever violent, and unremarkably so. Alas. I guess the best thing a traditionalistic believer can do for a queer bashing or other target of violence is take the opportunity to witness to them about how Jesus will save them from homosexuality, and they will never have to provoke violence again by being vile and ungodly?

Okay then. Back to Leviticus: How does a conservative believer get around God plainly commanding us to kill the male queer fellows? Surely a plain reading hermeneutic which reads an unchanging command of God will not so easily let us off the hook?

Posted by: drdanfee on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 4:09pm BST

I have to agree with you to an extent. From what I am able to read, there seems to be a growing anti-Christian bias in England. I am also struck by the negative reaction to someone I know joining the Franciscans, and that from my own friends, lapsed Romans all, who ask why I am part of the problem because I call myself a Christian.

What I think you need to realize is that these people are reacting against an image of Christianity that they see in the media, and that, for many, is the Church of their childhood. They grew up with a repressive, judgemental Church that emphasized obedience to law and authority over Christian love. They hear it in the things people like you say. The statement that Christians are the natural enemies of gay people was made a while ago on BBC without any rebuttal. Why? Does it not bother you that Christians could be seen to be anybody's enemy?

This is not to say that you have to change your message, merely that maybe you need to put it a different way, since the public perceives your message to be one of hate. God doesn't hate, so if the way you spread His Gospel makes it look like He does, then you need to find a different weay to tell the Good News, no? Now Jesus tells us the world will hate us anyway. Can't we try to make it that if they hate us it is for doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with ourGod, rather than for sitting in judgement on them and speaking without any thought of the violence our words will engender?

Remeber, Dave, when you saw the pictures of Matthew Sheppard, you might have thought it was horrible, but I doubt you saw yourself hanging there. I did. So did every other gay person I know. We know our lives are not worth yours in the public's mind, so maybe you can understand why people might be a little quick to hear hatred in your words.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 4:15pm BST

The rhetoric does not work, dan. Conservative Christianity is not the same as fundamentalism, and even fundamentalism is not the same as Phelps and Family. Your question about Leviticus is laboured and obsolete.

I quite understand that in order to maintain your offensive against traditional Christianity, you need to have some kind of leverage, and therefore it suits you to portray conservative churches and Christians as homophobes, against whom it is convenient to make all kinds of assertions which are unprovable.

Incidents of violent crime against homosexuals in the UK, where the perpetrator sets out, with malice aforethought, to attack one or more homosexuals, are thankfully very rare. Mostly such attacks occur where drunken and routinely violent people encounter homosexuals in public toilets or cruising in public places. Two men I know have been beaten up in recent years while importuning for sex with other men in public toilets.

I have yet to see anyone tried for such an attack who has claimed, or has been alleged to be, either a Christian or influenced by the Bible (however mistaken their understanding of the bible) in carrying out the attack.

But like you, it suits the Gay Police Association to link Christians and violence - in order to pursue their campaign against those who regard their activity as sinful. They are seeking to operate as Thought Police, imposing an ideology of their own, and abusing the ordinary criminal law as an instrument with which to drive opposition underground.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 5:45pm BST

Just a comment on the alleged "anti-Christian bias" in England.

I don't think there is a general, anti-Christian bias per se, although there is perhaps a lack of understanding, within an increasingly secular culture, of what Christianity is all about.

However I do perceive a bias against the particularly virulent and strident condemnation of homosexuality which has come from some parts (but not all) of the Church in the UK. I am thinking of Brian Souter's campaign on clause 28 in Scotland for example.

The silent majority of UK residents have gay friends, neighbours or relatives, living in partnerships, as part of their lives. Many of these people in the UK know little about religion, but they see gay people as being "normal", so they see this strident anti-gay language as intolerant and backward, but sadly it is the only voice of Christianity that they hear.

If you want the loving voice of Christianity to be heard, then shout it louder, because at present it is being drowned out.

Interestingly one place I did not perceive an anti-Christian bias was at the recent Gay Pride national rally in Trafalgar Square. I manned one of three stands situated together - Quest (gay Catholics) an Anglican Church (St James's Piccadily) and the Metropolitan Community Church. The whole afternoon was marked by grace and good humour as a steady stream of people approached all three stands (but especialy Quest) for advice on how to access support for their Christian faith despite the hostility from some parts (but not all) of the Church.

Simon Dawson

Posted by: simon dawson on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 6:12pm BST

Rob Hall raised a concern about the police ad targetting Christian justification of gay violence, and failing to note the other sources of violence.

That is a legitimate point. As was Dave's a couple of threads ago that many of the recriminations being levelled against extremist Christians should apply to expremists of other doctrines or philosophies.

However, one thing a predator will do is try to hide their violence (so they have access to further unsuspecting victimes), discount the impact or seriousness of their violence, or justify their violence. In this sense, they are duck-shovers par excellence.

One favourite duck-shoving strategy is to justify their behaviour based on other peoples' sins. This does not just apply to violence against gays/women/ethnic groups. It also applies to covert or unethical war strategies, entrenching economic apartheid, power brokers sabotaging true democracies to protect their self-interests.

In any journey, you have to start somewhere and you have to take your first step. Bullies do not have the right to demand that every other sin be fixed before their own sin is fixed. Peace does not come by the rest of the world being pure so therefore it is safe for you to repent. Peace comes when we accept that we are all sinners and need to all walk more humbly to minimise the adverse consequences, and when we hold out a hand to help our fellow unworthy samaritans to carry their load too.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 8:47pm BST


Help! Do we have an English-American lexicon available?? Or is duck-shoving, its legitimation (or otherwise) in scripture and its place within the Anglican tradition, something the next Lambeth (subject to its existence) is going to have to debate?

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Monday, 31 July 2006 at 10:21pm BST

Well, in USA we used to have cow-tipping? Is that a cross the pond equivalent?

I guess there is just no getting conservative believers to actually spell out their hermeneutic in sufficient detail to permit careful, sustained scrutiny. It is always referenced as such a foregone conclusion that only a willful liberal, snotty ninny like me doesn't get it.

I cannot completely account for the possible differences between conservative believers in USA and those in U.K. I doubt they are actually clones. But that said, nobody who has bothered to listen much to the Christian rightwing in USA can doubt that they say, anyway, that they are after blood. Until, that is, somebody mentions that they have just gone blood thirsty, in which case they quickly say they love the sinner (who cannot ever be queer, not really, because just nobody, nobody at all, is ever really queer), while they dearly despise and lament the queer sin.

Roshdoonians at least in USA do, in fact, espouse the death penalty based on Leviticus. Rushdoony has greatly influenced the entire spectrum of the most vigorous new Christian right.

If that just doesn't translate at all to the U.K. context, then count yourselves very fortunate indeed. Listen to the interviews in Arthur Dong's film, Licensed to Kill, and then find suitable British conservative strategies for talking their comments away, too.

I am still committed because my baptism calls me, to get my hands dirty as a helper and healer for both perpetrators and targets of antigay violence. In all its witting and unwitting forms. That is the best I can do for now. I really dislike the idea that I have to keep an armed revolver at my beside table, because armed Christians are prowling the halls of my various legislatures, trying to pass laws against me having a place to live, a legal hospital visitation right for my partner or child, and all that. I live in the belly of that beast, and it howls when it likes about how God only created straights.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 3:01am BST

Sorry. Duck-shover lexicon.

Duck for ducking responsibility, shover for trying to shove responsibility off onto someone else. A comedy scene would be the drill officer starts yelling "who's responsible for this mess!" and none of the recruits can be found (or the ones that didn't hide fast enough say "it wasn't me").

A Life of Brian moment: "You're all a bunch of conformists!" "No we're not, no we're not", replies the crowd. "I am" admits a quiet little voice.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 9:14am BST

The USA sounds like an alien world, dan.

So does this:

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 10:05am BST

I spent the early evening contemplating that there really should be a scriptural link to duck-shoving. Well, there's a few avoidance of responsibility/passing the buck examples in the bible with God's comments: Isaiah 1:14-25, Hosea 11:12, one of my favourites: Hosea 13:12 where God rebukes Ephraim for lacking the sense to come to the opening of the womb when it is time.

Actually the latter one led me into a contemplation of the who me/us God wants me/us to do this thing??? Early example: the Israelites marrying God under Mt Sinai. Modern example: God wants THIS generation to be the one that brings peace to all the peoples of all the faiths of all the nations?

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 12:05pm BST

If your point is that liberals can be just as extreme as conservatives, you are pontificating the obvious. That doesn't justify persecution. If someone decided that he wanted to kill me, he could, then claim I had made homosexual advances "against" him and likely get away with it, or at least get a lesser sentence than if he had killed a "real" person. It happens all the time. How does the dictatorial behaviour of a bunch of left wing lawmakers in the US justify this? I can see myself in the man in the article you posted. It's not only right wingers who go to jail for standing up for unpopular beliefs. Can you see yourself in Matthew Sheppard?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 1:45pm BST

Ford, the point is that the kind of world which, in the name of sexual equality, prohibits Christians from expressing biblical teaching, is profoundly totalitarian. It is beginning to happen in the UK as well, but not quite yet on a Massachusetts scale.

It is a direct interference with freedom of belief and speech whether the attempt is made to silence Christian speakers and writers, or more ominously to require our children to undergo "education" of a kind which no child should receive. It is all too reminiscent of Mao's China and its treatment of dissidents.

dan's thesis, that somehow those perpetrating violence against homosexuals are influenced by Christian teaching is simply not sustainable. The Old Testament speaks of punishment by stoning for those engaging in homosexual sex or adultery. Christian teaching is based on the New Testament, which speaks of sin and repentance; and wherever judgement is required, it is a matter for God.

Repugnance against homosexuality is widespread in the wider secular society in the UK, among people who have no practical knowledge or acquaintance with the Christian faith, and those who take violent action against homosexual people are generally brutish in outlook, if not actually feral in their disconnection from civilised society.

There is of course a debate going on in the political sphere about the extent to which Christianity can be made by law to conform to the homosexual agenda, and it is to be expected that in such a forum Christians will stand up for their beliefs. But to extrapolate from this to blame Christians for nocturnal gay-bashing is quite wrong.

America seems to do things differently. It would be a safer country if its citizens were not armed. If I were to keep a loaded revolver in my house for self-defence, I would go to prison for at least five years once the police found out. And I would have no difficulty with seeing the Phelps phenomenon outlawed.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 5:48pm BST

Too much bundling. It allows the predators to weave their ways through the ranks causing dissention to distract attention away from them. There are extremists and martyrs at both ends of the spectrums. The scriptures can be used for both good and bad.

Bad people use the scriptures to do bad things e.g. justifying homophobic attacks, sex without boundaries (Jesus replaced laws of OT), unethical wars or racism or misogymy, non-accountabilty or irresponsiblity (all is forgiven).

A foolish person denies that the scriptures can be misused e.g. by facists or homophobics. A really foolish person then tries to argue that polite people don't talk about how the scriptures can be misused. A wicked priestly caste then colludes to hide the evidence of its own or favoured parishioners as they do misuse the scriptures.

Wisdom is accepting that the scriptures can be misused and taking responsibility for honoring the intent of the bible and not allowing the bible to become co-opted by an adulterous priestly caste who have sold themselves to the "kings" of the dominant idol paradigm of their time.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 9:27pm BST

I think that evangelical Christians can be blamed for gay bashing - because they help to create a negative culture in which such things can be excused.

Homophobia takes many different forms.

I think I would be a bit more convinced if just for once, evangelicals would support without reservation, equality legislation - but they don't. Indeed, they have been at the forefront of opposition to every legal change.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 1 August 2006 at 11:21pm BST

May I ask those Christians commenting here who say that Christians do not contribute to a societal atmosphere that leads to violent or otherwise oppression of homosexual persons, to answer the following simple question:

In your honest opinion, do gay people have the right to walk down the street holding each others hand and to give each other an occasional kiss in exactly the same way as heterosexual people do - in front of your children and when you are eating lunch and things?

(I'm not speaking of any deliberately provocative or lascivious displays - just normal, casual expressions of mutual, intimate affection that go unnoticed when they are between heterosexual couples. The most I'm thinking of here is the lazy canoodling one might see taking place on the grass in a park on a hot summer's day.)

This is precisely relevent to the discussion here and needs to be answered with full honesty, exactness and clarity. Thank you.

Posted by: Matthew Hunt on Wednesday, 2 August 2006 at 2:45am BST

Alan said:

"Repugnance against homosexuality is widespread in the wider secular society in the UK, among people who have no practical knowledge or acquaintance with the Christian faith,..."

Widespread? That is not my experience at all. Perhaps the Home Counties are not typical.

Can you offer any evidence for this claim?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 2 August 2006 at 8:23am BST


I would expect the same level of modesty and decorum from homosexuals that I would demand from heterosexuals. I would prefer they took a life-long mate and did not commit adultery. I would not approve of immodest dress or overt public displays of affection, but tolerate them with the same sufferance I do with other souls bare who too much midriff or cleavage. (God knows that part of creating peace is tolerating difference and youthful exhuberance - including in oldies who don't grow up). The alternative is to build a repressive prohibition culture that doesn't stop the problem. Yet the extremes of organised crime - sex, hard drugs, violence, violations still needs to be managed. When I witness someone being rude and inconsiderate, I acknowledge that I have prayed for a world where souls can bumble and fumble and that means I have to forgive inconsiderateness and selfishness (provided it does not go to an extreme or become predatory).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 2 August 2006 at 8:33am BST

I suspect that there may be several sets of misunderstandings, which make discussion more confused than it need be.

1. The question of whether or not violent attacks or hate-filled speech provably leading to violent attacks against homosexual persons is permissable is not one on which there can be any room for disagreement amongst Christians. It is compleletly unacceptable, full stop. To my personal knowledge, many evangelical Christians genuinely think and act on that, and are filled with horror by the antics of the likes of Archbishop Akinola.

2. Churches are not the same as society as a whole. Therefore the question of what should be permitted by the state and society - eg. gay marriage - is NOT the same as what should be blessed by churches. Just like other individuals or groups, Christian individuals and groups have the right to argue for whatever state policies they perceive to be best on this and other social and political questions. The important point here is that - providing such views do not provably lead to violence and the like - encouraging full freedom of debate is the best safeguard for everyone's freedom.

3. The question of what Christianity teaches - and therefore what the church should or should not bless - on committed faithful homosexual activity is a question on which Christians disagree in good faith. There are sincerely committed Christians on all sides of the discussion, however much some may want to deny this.

4. Religious communities take different views on gay and other issues. It is unacceptable that the state should try to dictate what any community should think or believe, unless that community can - like say the Klu Klux Klan or the British National Party - be provably linked to acts of violence. It's surely a lot healthier to have a society where both Metropolitan Community Churches and Evangelical Alliances are able to publicly advocate their radically different views, and practice them in community, and the state does not interfere with either's freedom to do this.

The danger I see is that there are those, on all sides of the debate, who want society to see their views as the only acceptable views. That way lies tyranny. As the Marxist Rosa Luxemburg put it, "freedom is always freedom to think differently."

Posted by: Rob Hall on Wednesday, 2 August 2006 at 12:00pm BST


Widespread in my experience of conversation with a wide range of people, both Christian and non-Christian, both north and south. The general attitude is that adopted following decriminalisation in the late 1960s: tolerance as long as sexual activity is confined to the privacy of the home.

But if pressed just a little, non-believers will say that they consider homosexuality to be unnatural/unhealthy, while Christians if asked will quote the New Testament to the effect that it is sinful (and add that it is finally for the judgement of God).

We live in a tolerant and mostly peaceful society in the home counties, but people are reluctant to engage in debate, often saying that they are afraid to voice an opinion these days in case it is reported to the police.

As I said earlier, reported cases of actual violence against homosexuals tend to occur when people of already violent tendencies (and most unlikely to be Christians) encounter men cruising or cottaging, or engaging in sex with other men in public places. Unfortunately some homosexual men (several have told me so) find some additional excitement in taking risks of this kind.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Wednesday, 2 August 2006 at 1:09pm BST

I think you must mix with a lot of people who share your outlook, Alan. Certainly amongst younger people with whom I work, its hardly an issue for them any more

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 2 August 2006 at 7:43pm BST

I'm not young, and my experience when I was working in the UK software industry (until five years ago) was the same as Merseymike's now. I simply didn't ever hear non-religious people express such views. I did hear plenty of criticism of religion though.

I also have never heard anybody say they were afraid of the police.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 2 August 2006 at 10:58pm BST

Alan's comments don't reflect my personal experience: including in my bible study last year when members breathed a sigh of relief that they could be kind to their friend who had come out of the closet, and another that it was okay for their homosexual brother-in-law to be at their son's communion service.

I particularly liked Rob Hall's posting of 2 August 12.00pm BST. It parallels very closely the South African position, which also separates the identity of the State from the identity of the faith communities within the state.

My one additional observation is that the conservatives move to control state legislature as well as what is endorsed within their church. This is not peculiar to Christians, we see the same thing in other faiths too.

I made a comment on my discussion forum today that this current war between Israel and Hezbollah could be seen as the third destruction of the temple. The false temple this time being the idolisation of the State (as controlled by one "victorious" priestly caste) as a penultimate manifestation of God's endorsement. (The second destruction was to break the paradigm that God belonged to only one faith in only one place on earth and was determined by legalistic geneology).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 2 August 2006 at 11:17pm BST

The other comment for Alan is that what a lot of fundamentalists (this does not necessarily mean you Alan) do not realise, is that souls recognise the glazed eyes of someone with a religious pitch to be made. Prudent souls have learnt to not make waves in front of such souls, to give lip service to shut them up. We also tip each other off about one of them when we know they are going to be at a forthcoming social function, and either stay out of their way or do our best to keep the conversation off controversial subjects. Good hosts and hostesses often have different kinds of social functions - where their liberal friends are invited to one set and their conservatives to another, with a few trusted friends they know won't put their foot in it invited to both. So what the arch-conservatives hear is not reality as we know it...

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 2 August 2006 at 11:29pm BST

It could also be, Cheryl, that people are either cautious of expressing such views in the presence of someone they don't know, in case that person is homosexual; or that they are actually afraid of being labelled or denounced as homophobic/racist/disablist or whatever - take your pick from the West Midlands police list.

And I hear the strongest views expressed by people much younger than I am, contrary to merseymike. Perhaps those around him have been made well aware of his own circumstances, as he has described them here.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 1:14am BST

"men cruising or cottaging"

Comment and 2 questions.

Comment: Isn't it interesting that most of the focus in this thread has assumed that anti-gay violence is aimed primarily at men?

Question 1: In the US cruising is giving a good look over to others of the same gender [guess what? women do it too] as a prelude to flirting. Hardly an aggresive thing, I'd think. The way to avert being cruised is to ignore the person. No need for violence. Is that not what cruising means in UK?

Question 2: "cottaging?" What does that mean? It's not current slang where I am [but I'm not exactly in a gay mecca here].

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 4:38am BST

No, Alan, I simply find that the average young person simply is not bothered about the issue - they have gay friends, have always known gay people. They are just part of the furniture! I think it more likely to be the case that people with affirming views would not choose someone with your outlook as friend or acquaintance and would not particularly wish to discuss matters with someone with your views. I think if you asked yourself what the average British person thinks about conservative religion, on the other hand, you may not like the answer.

I spent four years on a police authority and have been involved with police liaison work for quite some while. The false claims that most homophobic attacks take place within public sex environments are erroneous.

Cottaging and cruising are both terms which are used in that context in the UK, Cynthia. Cottaging you may better know as tearoom trade! Of course, these are subcultural practices which not everyone is into, just like not all straights go swinging or spend their every waking hour in nightclubs. Most gay people live very average, ordinary lives!

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 9:17am BST

My godson is 14 years old. He has always known that his godfather is gay, in a monogamous stable relationship. He and his siblings are good, well behaved kids. Given that you think that teaching kids...what exactly?....about homosexuals is something none of "your" kids should be exposed to, I have some questions. I assume you mean good straight Christian kids, not the ones being raised, and presumably thus harmed, by gays or that are cursed enough to be gay themselves. Here's my questions:

when do you think my godson would have been old enough to learn the horrible truth about his godfather?

How do you think he and his siblings have been damaged by learning too early about me?

Why should children not be taught that it is bad to be nasty to gay people, or to tease the kid with two mommies?

And you are poorly informed about anti-gay violence. I'm sure it feels good to think that we mainly get beaten up when we attempt to carry on our perversions in public places, but it ain't true. If the people you're hearing this stuff from are young, then maybe you need to stop hanging around with skinheads!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 10:45am BST

"Of course, these are subcultural practices which not everyone is into, just like not all straights go swinging or spend their every waking hour in nightclubs."

Thanks for this reminder. Anthropologists from Mars would get a very skewed notion of human sexuality and use of mind-altering substances if they sampled the weekend nocturnal behavior of heterosexual undergraduates at my university.

"Human beings," they would write,"mate only when intoxicated at barely sub-lethal levels. Choice of mate seems random and clearly envisions limited if any future contact. Their term for mating is 'hooking up.' Noise levels at mating grounds are high enough to cause permanent hearing loss. Formation of stable families seems unlikley."

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 11:13am BST

Alan. Being cautious about expressing your opinions for fear of being attacked can go the other way too. I agree with your point (I've witnessed people do it at both extremes).

The other thing to be aware of is that predators "camoflage" so that no one suspects their sinister secrets. We know and are aware of it when it comes to pedophiles, but we tend to over discount it when it comes to anti-semitism, misogyomy, homophobia.

Cynthia your comment about assuming most of the anti-gay violence is against men is noted. That is a deeper concern, especially when some gay men are particularly misogynistic. (I wonder with such men if their sexuality is not so much based on love of men but more on hatred of women).

That is another reason I dislike bundling, it forces homosexuals to associate with each other as the joint victims of a homophobic culture, and thus fosters the sarcastic anti-female cliches. A more nurturing society would enable the more gentle souls to blend into the broader community and not need to seek companionship from more aggressive souls they would otherwise eschew. (A similar dynamic occurs in other social isolationist phenomenom e.g. apartheid, refugee camps, behind an economic blockade. Souls who would not normally be compatible suddenly find themselves having a common enemy or common needs not being met and thus find themselves in a co-operative alliance that would otherwise be unthinkable).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 12:16pm BST

merseymike is right to say that "most gay people live very average, ordinary lives" - thank goodness for that. But the cases of homophobic attacks which I mentioned very rarely concern those whose lives are average and ordinary.

Those who do suffer savage beatings and worse tend to be that element which seeks sex with strangers in public places: parks and heath land, typically ("cruising"), and in men's toilets ("cottaging"). I believe there is an increasing incidence of attacks on those who meet with strangers through the Internet.

I have not heard of women meeting women in this sort of way - perhaps it does occur elsewhere in the world?

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 1:07pm BST

John Boswell includes following quotation as an epigraph to his Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (U. Chicago, 1980):

"We can easily reduce our detractors to absurdity and show them their hostility is groundless. But what does that prove? That their hatred is real. When every slander has been rebutted, every misconception cleared up, every false opinion about us overcome, intolerance itself will remain finally irrefutable." --
Moritz Goldstein, "Deutsch-Judischer Parnass"

As I've read this blog over the past several months, I have seen the same old slanders, misconceptions, and false opinions about gays recycled over and over by some posters. They never acknowledge the witness of gay Christians because for them it is not possible to be gay and be Christian.

Alan Marsh worries about the Thought Police, but gays live their danger in their bodies. Can Alan picture himself on that fence like Matthew Shephard? Nothing he has said about his beliefs or his experiences suggests that he has ever made such a thought experiment or that he actually is in danger of such a fate.

Zygmunt Bauman notes in Modernity that it is not necessary for large segments of a population to actively hate a particular group in order for violence against them to occur. It is only necessary to induce people to be indifferent to that group's fate because they are considered in some way less than human. Human defined, of course, as "just like me."

The fact that Alan and Dave appear unwilling to allow that the experience of other groups such as Jews, blacks, and women, has any pertinence to the situation of homosexuals is in itself an attempt to rob gays of their humanity. That they use language softer than Peter Akinola's merely camouflages a hostility that is equally unyielding.

Posted by: Susan Y. on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 1:51pm BST

Part of the clues to possible links between negative religious views and antigay violence, in fact, involve the real pattern of that violence. It is not, statistically, clumped around semi-closeted male sex contact hunts. How anybody who has actually read the available data could still be asserting this is rather beyond me.

The real patterns on first glance tend to look like semi-random attacks/incidents. Then if you talk to the alleged perp, you often begin to get either direct religious negative quotes, or loopy versions of direct religious negative doctrines/beliefs. That throws one as it were into inquiring in both directions, further. What is the individual violence psychology of this particular alleged perp? What is the status/institutional violence, maybe, of the milieus in which the alleged perp was raised?

Probably eventually our recent decoding of the human genome is going to shed additional great light on the biological substrates of the first question? Probably, already, we know from examining prejudices against Jews, people of color, disabled people, the gifted and talented student, and yes LGBTQ Folks - a good deal of how the status violence atmospheres question goes.

Stepping back just a bit, it is silly to presume that violence against other minorities includes the negative atmospheres we help to generate, or undo, or moderate in our various religious views - while reserving a special insulation frame for negative views of LGBTQ Folks. Common sensically, that special reservation just will not quite wash.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 3:50pm BST

Alan - they may be some of the beatings which make the press. But they are not the whole story. They make up a very small part of the total.

And, frankly, if people are preying on others in those circumstances, that's wrong. Have you ever considered that some of those who do cruise and cottage may be doing so because of their lack of confidence in being open about their sexuality? You get two extremes - those who enjoy it as a form of recreational sex and sure, the danger is part of that - but as Cynthia has said, thats not something confined to gays as swinging and dogging displays. You also get people who are not out, too nervous to meet people in more conventional ways. Indeed, they are far more likely to be attacked simply because of their vulnerability.

How do you think this might be helped? I would say it's by normalising being gay as much as possible so that people don;t have to feel so negative and oppressed. But I am afraid that won't be done by opposing civil partnerships and equality before the law, let alone portraying people as inferior and especially sinful for being who they are.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 5:45pm BST


I don't know if you realise how closely your comments about who and why tend to be gay bashed paralleled the legalistic defenses that used to see most Australian rape cases squashed. Namely that they would prove the woman had done something to provoke their attacker (dressed inappropriately, been on the wrong side of town, out at the wrong times, smiled at them in a bar, agreed to go out on a date, had sex with them ten years ago). In Australia, a woman had to literally prove that she was a saint who never made a mistake, because even one single slip up was grounds to dismiss the rape charge because she had consented through her promiscuous behaviour.

That is why there was the feminist movement. The misogynists in the churches fought against us then, and they still fight against us now. When my husband wanted to borrow against the house for his business, I went to my Anglican minister and trusted parish leaders and told them I could only afford to lose $60k. (He wanted to borrow $120k). I was told by three trusted families that a woman's lot was with her husband, and if he lost everything then she went down with him. I had no right to say no. That occurred in 1996, not 1966. The rest as they say is history.

Perpetuators of violence always have some mental model to justify their violence (even serial killers). Very few are totally random killers. Most people have a construct of who is okay to be attacked and who is not. To try and categorise who "deserves" attacks by their conduct is to deny that each and every one is a child of God and each and every one of us is entitled to live in a co-operative, loving and sustainable manner.

drdanfee's comments about this being part of understanding the continuum's of human pscyhology is on the money. This is one of the reforms the religions (not just Christianity) could and should have taken on decades ago, but because Freud said rude words, they dismissed what was useful because their egos had been hurt. That same petulance also explains stupid conservatives not looking at the implications of Darwin, Dawkins, Marx and a host of other paradigm breakthroughs. Even if the person who makes a discovery is a rabid atheist or a facsist: God is still playing his cards and God uses bad people as well as good people. We deny God his glory when we refuse to look at a paradigm shift because someone insulted us. It makes us narrow-minded, self-righteous bigots.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 7:41pm BST

I do not know who Matthew Shepherd is, but I should have thought that by now, on THINKING Anglicans, it might be accepted that nobody here is in favour of violence against anyone else. (Unless those who disagree are deemed to be incapable of thought, or to have secret violent tendencies, a line of reasoning which I begin to discern here.)

It would be tedious but very simple to locate and to include links here to people opposed to homosexual intercourse, who are themselves black, women or Jewish, and I won't waste time doing so. We do not agree here that homosexuality is a behaviour rather than a colour, gender or race. Sin is to be found in behaviour which is contrary to the will of God.

Christian teaching does not categorise anyone as sinful for being who they are, not even those who have violent or paedophile tendencies. It does have something to say about the actions we take, and I am not the only one who sees in the scriptures unmistakeable warnings against homosexual intercourse: it is the interpretation which is held by most of the Christian world. Swinging and dogging are equally repugnant to Christian teaching.

This discussion is effectively limited to personal anecdote, which I acknowledge, but of the people I know who identify themselves as gay - from teenage onwards - the only ones who have suffered violent attacks have been those who have taken risks of the kind already described, including one clergyman and one layman, both brutally beaten in public toilets.

How might this be helped? The answer seems to me to be that those who do not accept the teaching of the Church should avoid dangerous forms of recreational sex, which include considerable health risks in addition to the high risk of violence.

Those who are Christians will find all the grace they need in friendship and companionship. Nobody needs to have sexual intercourse. It is not compulsory and unlike food, drink and oxygen, wholly unnecessary to human well-being.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 9:20pm BST


Thankyou for sharing your views. I am not going to criticise them - I am sure they are a sincere expression of your beliefs and experiences, but in the spirit of Lambeth (listening to the lived experiences of gay men) I would like to respond with my own perceptions

You say "But if pressed just a little, non-believers will say that they consider homosexuality to be unnatural/unhealthy, while Christians if asked will quote the New Testament to the effect that it is sinful" etc

I am sure that SOME non-believers and Christians may say this, and perhaps ALL of your own contacts may do so, but please don't generalise. Many Christians do not believe that gay relationships, or gay sex, is a sin - and they can quote other interpretations of scripture in support.

You said "reported cases of actual violence against homosexuals tend to occur when people of already violent tendencies (and most unlikely to be Christians) encounter men cruising or cottaging, or engaging in sex with other men in public places. Unfortunately some homosexual men (several have told me so) find some additional excitement in taking risks of this kind."

Again you generalise and oversimplify what is a complex and varied picture, with many different motives for both cottaging and violence. What I will point out, however, is that in an increasingly tolerant society many gay men do not NEED to cruise for anonymous sex (although some CHOOSE to do so) as many gay men can be open and go to clubs, or live in relationships.

Paradoxically nowadays, a lot of those who are driven to cruise for anonymous sex are the increasingly small category of men who still live in an anti-gay sub culture, i.e evangelical Christian or Muslim. You might be surprised how many "christians" leave their wives behind to visit the cruising sites.

Such behaviour, a deep inner drive for gay sex fighting a powerful teaching that such sex is sinful, can lead such men to deep inner psychological conflict, which can manifest in times of stress in violence. Again, it is not uncommon for perpetrators of homophobic violence to be both gay thenmselves, and from an anti-gay, often religious, background.

It is a complex and difficult picture which cannot be solved by expressing religious certainties, but sharing views and opinions like this can help.

Best wishes

Simon Dawson

Posted by: simon dawson on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 10:04pm BST

Alan writes, "I do not know who Matthew Shepherd is..."

Matthew Shepherd was killed some years ago, in the high plains of Wyoming, in the U.S.A. in an anti-gay hate crime. He was in a local bar. Two heterosexual young men offered him a ride home in their truck. They admit the whole town knew Matthew was gay. They drove out onto the plains at the edge of the city and beat him into a coma. They left him, shoeless, tied to a fence on the plains, exposed to the elements all night. A boy on a bicycle found him the next morning. When a policewoman reached the scene, Matthew was in a coma. He died a few days later.

The killers were quickly caught. The defense on the part of at least one of them was that in the truck Matthew had made a pass, or put his hand on his leg, I don't remember which. This supposedly justified the two men dragging Matt from the truck and beating him and leaving him to die alone. The "gay pass/fear of gays" defense was not accepted. Both men were convicted. Matthew Shepherd's father pled that they not be executed but be sentenced to life in prison. He said Matthew would not have wanted their deaths. This is what I remember about Matthew Shepherd.

Matthew Shepherd was an Episcopalian.

Lois Keen
Episcopal Priest, Norwalk Connecticut

Posted by: Lois Keen on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 11:31pm BST

Alan ;frankly, I think your last statement is nonsense. Irrespective of one's religion, some people are better suited to permanent singledom than others. Being gay by orientation does not automatically make someone suited for that sort of way of life.

And I don't do gay, I am gay. Thats why protective legislation does not distinguish between whether gay people are actually in a relationship or not - simply the category.

As for anecdotes, given your attitudes, I honestly don't think the gay people you come across are going to be particularly representative.I mentioned earlier that I have worked with the police in this area and hence my information is not anecdotal but based on evidence.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 3 August 2006 at 11:37pm BST


The same principle applies to unmarried Christians who are heterosexual. Having sex is completely unnecessary to living a happy and fulfilled life. And it is also true to say that many marriages are far more about friendship and companionship than any physical expression of sexuality.

I also suspect that I work with a far wider cross-section of society than those you have met in the company of the police.

Lois, it is a dreadful story, and I am glad the killers received justice for their crime. I am also glad that they were not executed. The death penalty has been abolished in Europe.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 12:32am BST

When I got gaybashed it was for walking out of a gay bar after having a drink with my friends.

I knew the police could do nothing about it after the fact, but for the sake of statistics I immediately went to the police station to report it. They took a statement and so on and after it all I asked the WPC who dealt with me whether this would go toward the statistics and whether those statistics would indicate whether crimes were 'homophobic' or not.

She fluffed her response a couple of times, but I persisted until she said, "Look, we pretty much make up those kind of statistics anyway so I wouldn't worry about it."

To imply that most assaults are on 'cottagers' or 'cruisers' is an obscene distortion of the picture. It would be laughable were the subject not so awful. The majority of those who do attack people indulging in those activities have purposely gone to places where these activities take place with the intent of attacking them.

Smear the victim, sayeth the Lord, and the heat shall disperseth from both the violent and they that smear the victims of violence. For yea verily do we know that the pervs are asking for it. Hallelujah.

BTW. Why no response from the anti-gays to my previous question?

Posted by: Matthew Hunt on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 1:17am BST


I had not seen your posting of 3rd August, 9.20PM when I wrote my own posting, which appears immediately below it. I think your posting proves my point, and makes a fascinating paradox.

You appear to be an evangelical Christian who lives in a Christian culture which is strictly against expressions of gay behaviour; whilst I am a gay,"liberal" Christian, living in an openly declared gay partnership blessed in church, and with many gay Christian friends living an openly, active gay lifestyle in London.

Yet it is you who has Christian friends who have been beaten up cruising in public toilets - I don't.

Which is the healthier lifestyle?


Posted by: simon dawson on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 3:39am BST


I am not quite sure what point you are making. I am a member of a very ordinary Anglican church with no definite churchmanship one way or another and certainly no Evangelical slant. The two people I know who have been attacked are not Evangelicals.

From the angle of practical safety, in a world in which all kinds of people are victims of mindless violence, I earlier advocated that people should not take risks of the kinds I described. To look for sex in public places is high risk. To go to places which are well-known as "gay" bars is to identify oneself and therefore to attract attention from thugs. In most towns even to walk around at night is a risk for any member of the public.

It is an appalling state of affairs, disturbing and unjust, but in a society which has turned from teaching right and wrong, to attempting ineffectively to police some of the symptoms of lawlessness, there is no reasoning with the people who are looking for an excuse to commit violence.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 10:14am BST

Simon Dawson commented at one point "You might be surprised how many "christians" leave their wives behind to visit the cruising sites."

I was stunned to hear that one of the biggest sectors being diagnosed with new HIV infections in the US (and some other places) are women who are pregnant with their first baby. As part of their initial health diagnosis for celebrating this little parcel of joy with their new husbands, they then find out that their husband has a sexual history they didn't know about and that they and their little bundle have just been given a life sentence without their knowledge nor consent.

Yes. It is possible to live full and meaningful lives without sex, but some souls have strong sex drives. The apostle Paul's advice in such circumstances is to take a spouse and remain monogamous. e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:5-9. Further, Paul notes it as a suggestion, not as a command.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 11:52am BST

The fact that you do not know who Matthew Sheppard was speaks volumes. He is iconic of the violence we must face. He is us. That you don't know him speaks to your ignorance of the issue, yet you make offensive and inaccurate statements here, and, I presume, in real life as well. Thanks for that.

As to this "To go to places which are well-known as "gay" bars is to identify oneself and therefore to attract attention from thugs." As you are alluding to the CEN story, it was the society that clearly taught right from wrong that made this kind of thing happen. In so far as we have some relative safety from this kind of thing, it is because we have turned fromthe old ways that made this acceptable, so your implicit grief for the old morality rings hollow. Also, can you not see that the whole point is that we should not have to hide out of fear of this kind of thing, and it is not us who are wrong for going to a gay bar, but those who kill us for it? Cripes! Stop blaming the victim, unless, of course, you also think we should hide ourselves away.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 1:54pm BST

Alan ; the difference is that unmarried Christians who are heterosexual have the possibility of marriage. Of course, there will be some people of both sexual orientations who will not find a life partner even though they wish to, and similarly, others who decide that they do not want one.

However, you are treating people of gay sexual orientation in a different way to those who are heterosexual, in that what is available to one is not available to the other. I think this is ethically unacceptable

I would agree that many marriages are primarily about companionship. The same is no doubt true for many gay relationships. The issue os treating people equally. You do not do that in that you prescribe permanant and compulsory celibacy for all gay people, whereas this is not the case for straight people.

As for the breadth of people you know, your experience shows that to be clearly untrue or your findings would be nearer the evidence available - that anti-gay attitudes are less strong than they were, and decrease in the 18-24 age range considerably

I also think that victim-blaming is totally unacceptable - particularly when your stance legitimises negative attitudes in the first place. What is unacceptable is the prejudice - full stop.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 3:31pm BST

Ford, which country do you live in?

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 4:26pm BST

Alan wrote:
In most towns even to walk around at night is a risk for any member of the public.

Again, this extremely sweeping statement is just not my own experience. Sure, there are specific places in particular towns which are best avoided, as in most countries.

What does anybody else in the UK think?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 6:15pm BST

In any town in any country it is not wise to walk around at night, especially on your own, especially if you are a woman. There are some areas that are more likely to be targetted by those seeking violent outlets (e.g. public toilets known for access to gay boys, certain night club districts). There are souls who are opportunistic and exercise their violent cravings as and when a convenient opportunity presents itself. Groups of thugs will drive across suburbs for the fun of a brawl. e.g. some of those thugs would wear a Klu Klux Klan uniform and then blend back into their local community for the church service on Sunday.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 4 August 2006 at 11:28pm BST

Alan said:
" Having sex is completely unnecessary to living a happy and fulfilled life. And it is also true to say that many marriages are far more about friendship and companionship than any physical expression of sexuality."

Isn't there a tension between those two statements?

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Saturday, 5 August 2006 at 10:36am BST

Cheryl said "In any town in any country it is not wise to walk around at night, especially on your own, especially if you are a woman."

I believe I'm right in saying that in the UK the most at-risk-of-violent-attack are males in the 15-25 age group. (That isn't to contradict Cheryl, since it may well be the case that the most serious assaults are predominantly against women.)

Posted by: David Rowett (= mynsterpreost) on Saturday, 5 August 2006 at 10:42am BST


I believe you would be quoting accurate statistics. Statistics reflect what is happening but it is sometimes necessary to take a step back and ask why the statistics look like that. (e.g. in primary school we learnt that it had been thought that poor people were more likely to catch tuberculosis, but actually someone evenutally realised it was because they were more likely to lived near the coal trains' railway lines).

Similarly in Australia, new HIV infections have tended to be lower in gays than heteros because gays have accepted the risk and used condoms more than the heteros (who dismissed it as a gay disease). Sensible women do not walk the streets at night, or use a variety of strategies to reduce their risks when they do so, so statistically they are less likely to be attacked. A parallel example, areas that use vaccinations are less likely to have disease outbreaks than areas that do not (the mengicoccal vaccine in Australia confused the doctors for a little while as infections were going down: then they realised the vaccine was working and then the vaccination became free).

The "Reclaim the Night" marches address the issue of not being able to walk around safely at night. It is not just gays who are at risk.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 5 August 2006 at 10:10pm BST
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