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As a young boy, probably around the age of eight, my parents used to pack me off in my smartest corduroy trousers and nicely ironed sweatshirt to Sunday school. Not being from a particularly religious background, what with my mother having previously divorced a Catholic and remarrying my Dad who had not even been christened C of E and had probably only been to church twice in his life, it might seem strange that I was exposed to a religious childhood. You see, I was one of those hyperactive children. I couldn’t sit still, had to be doing something, and often when not in a disciplined environment was a little bit of, well let’s say a tear away. So Sunday mornings at the local Baptist church, Mum and Dad would drop me off to meet with the other kids and I would spend the next three hours playing games, reading books and singing to our hearts’ content. This was probably for some rest bite from this crazy boy I once was.
As the church was Baptist, whose teaching focuses very much on family and having love and respect for each other, I was greeted weekly with Aunties and Uncles, not related, but who made you feel like it was a cosy home from home. I remember something being said once by one of the Aunties referring to how TV was becoming saturated with gays and that this is not a portrayal of humanity the Church wanted to see. Odder to me than actually being part of this religious exposure, was the notion being taught to me, that God loves everyone for who they are. So what had these gay folk done? I remember pondering this, believing he must love us all, unless we are boys in love with boys!
So what is religion’s problem with homosexuality? After all, the entire Bible is full of references to it. Nothing says homoerotic like a man parading around in a loin cloth with several men in tow. OK, so before we go down the road of victimising the church and calling all those of faith homophobes, let’s get one thing straight, we won’t tar them all with the same brush so to speak. For example the Quaker fellowship, possibly the most liberal of all Western Christian religions, are happy to marry same sex couples. In fact they don’t refer to civil partnerships, preferring to speak of marriage, and that in their eyes their blessing has the same meaning. Don’t get me wrong, in fact over the years I’ve come into contact with many LGBT based faith groups across the UK. So a question I’ve asked myself since those days at Sunday school is why are so many who lead the church against homosexuality, and why can’t faith live alongside sexuality?
Earlier this year two former Birmingham University students Rehana Kausar and Sobia Kamar, had a civil partnership after being together a year, and what’s wrong with that right? The women are both Muslims, and while planning their big day they received death threats from both outraged Muslim communities in the UK and from those in their native home of Pakistan. The couple have since applied for asylum here in Britain for fear of their lives should they head back to Pakistan. The women believe their love for each other is separate to Islam. They are the people, the couple, and the lovers who are still leading their lives as other Muslims would, except their love is not recognised by the faith of which they believe.
It seems ironic then that two women who have a strong case for asylum will be taken seriously by the British Government while their case is investigated, but their sexuality is deemed a sin by many of the religions who practice their teachings within the country they seek asylum from.
Many groups can’t embrace difference and change and that perhaps is where religion’s issues are rooted. The idea that a same sex couple could be compared to a heterosexual couple, to most religions is a step too far, because in the mostly archaic teachings, it is not explicitly mentioned or taught. Then again we could say that about the internet or TV, but extreme Christianity as it is, the GOD channel is happy to take money off people as they use the modern day technology for their own gain. So perhaps that is it, perhaps religion has no use for queers. There’s no added value to religion by having a couple of poofs at the back of Sunday service, upstaging Rita singing All Things Bright and Beautiful with a dance routine.
In the Bible, Mary Magdalene was not a powerful man behind the guy who saved humanity, she was a woman. Adam and Eve, Mary and Joseph, all straight couples referred to in the Bible, because there is no Adam and Steve, so it’s taken as read by many that gay is not the ‘norm’. Just two weeks ago we were reminded of how homophobic and narrow minded members of the religious communities still are. The Archbishop of Canterbury said during the Equal Marriage for Same Sex Couples debate in Lords that “gay marriage bill will undermine family life”. Just a sweeping statement of the lack of understanding he has on religion. I’m sure he wouldn’t make such a statement of a heterosexual who was living their life as single though.
So as an adult reflecting on those days of religion in my childhood, I will continue to ask, why is religion so hung up on excluding all strands of sexuality, turning its back on its values of love and respect? Can’t we see religion for what it is, a faith, a belief, something we can learn morals from, right from wrong, embrace and enjoy, and ultimately understand that sexuality is separate? Sexuality is just sharing love, and both can co-exist in the world, together.