Given that today, in the news, there’s rather a lot about the slowly-growing and now likely forthcoming schism in the Anglican church, I thought I’d ask the average churchgoer in the street about it. Well, the average churchgoer who is also my mother, at any rate. She’s a fairly average “active” Anglican, though. She’s white, lower-middle-class, female, edging towards elderly, lives in a commuter village, and goes to church every week. She’s a Sunday School teacher, has organised the parish’s Christian Aid collections, sings in an ecumenical Christian parish singing group,* and generally is far more active and puts more effort into religion than most churchgoers, never mind the huge percentage of Anglicans who tick the relevant box on the census but never cross the threshold of a church for anything other than weddings and funerals.
So, I said: “what are you going to do if the church splits in two? Is anyone going to leave St. Nick’s over it?”
Her answer: “What split?”
“You know, the one that has been rumbling for the last few years.” I tried to explain how the rather homophobic Peter Akinola is a figurehead for a group of largely-American homophobic conservatives, who do not like the Archbishop of Canterbury and have been threatening for some time to lead a schism, sometimes in the hope of bending him to their will, sometimes apparently meaning it.
“I’ve not heard about any of that,” she said. “We don’t talk about that sort of thing at church. That’s nothing to do with us.”
So, there you have it. I don’t think The Mother is particularly ignorant. As I said above, I think she’s probably less ignorant than your average churchgoer is likely to be, because she takes a very active interest. But to her, the politicking of a motley band of Americans and Africans isn’t important. An earthquake in Lambeth Palace isn’t important. The Second Coming occurring in the Lady Chapel of our parish church probably wouldn’t disturb most of the congregation, so long as it didn’t disrupt the Mothers Union or the bellringers, and everyone still got a cup of tea (or coffee) after the Sunday communion service. For your average English Anglican, dogma is something you recite during the service without really listening or understanding. It certainly isn’t something to get all argumentative about.
* where “ecumenical” means “Anglican and Methodist”, because they’re the only churches in the village. I’m not sure what they’ll do if those often-suggested plans to subsume British Methodists back into Anglicanism ever make much progress.
Apparently, it turns out that tea is much more healthy if you drink it without milk. The news isn’t going to help me, though, because I will never ever drink the stuff without milk in. I’ve tried it. It makes me ill. Without milk in, without fail, it brings up my stomach. So the news that it’s healthy raises a bitter laugh.
More serious news: as I type,* people are protesting on the streets of London for their God-given right to be nasty people. More specifically, they’re protesting that homophobia should be legally sacrosant, on religious grounds. I’m not sure I understand these religions for whom “keep away from the gays, you might catch gayness” is apparently more important than “love thy neighbour”. Take the Christians, for example – Jesus famously didn’t say anything at all about sexuality. St Paul did, but St Paul said lots of things.** The Old Testament does, but the Old Testament also says that wearing mixed-fibre fabrics should attract the death penalty.*** If being able to turn people away because they’re gay is such a religious issue, how come it’s never been a major tenet of your faith historically? If it’s not, why are you being nasty?
* see, that’s damn topical
** Then again, most Christians probably pay more respect to the teachings of St Paul than Jesus himself. St Paul wasn’t even one of Jesus’s followers, but he still managed to invent most of Christianity. For one thing, he came up with the controversial and shocking idea that you didn’t have to be Jewish to be a Christian. Want to feel like you’re going to heaven but can’t give up the bacon rolls? Thank St Paul! Trying to get your child into an Anglican school, but don’t want to have to stay away from everybody when you’re menstruating? Guess who you should thank!
*** I will look this up and check it later, I promise.
In which real people, are, shock horror, not like fictional people
Political campaigner Julie Bindel has been writing in The Guardian again, this time about changing lesbian stereotypes on the telly. Ostensibly her line is: lesbians on the telly now might be shown as happy, sex-loving people, but that’s still a stereotype. Her main concern, though, seems to be: there aren’t enough people like her, or her friends, on the screen:
Finn Mackay, a lesbian feminist in her 20s, is not enamoured by all the “designer” lesbians who have
sprung up on TV. “They don’t represent me,” says MacKay, “because they are never political and look
straight. They never look like any lesbians I know.”
Or, in other words, “all of the lesbians I know are politically active and could never be mistaken for straight people.”
Finn Mackay’s view of sexuality is just as narrow-minded, in its own way, as your average unreconstructed homophobe who can’t understand how two women can have sex together. I’m not objecting to people who want to support their sexuality politically,* but to suggest that you have an obligation to be political is a very exclusive and restrictive view. As is, indeed, the suggestion that if you’re gay you have to look gay. Coincidentally enough, I’ve just come back from a weekend away visiting a lesbian couple I know; and they don’t look particularly gay, or particularly straight. They just look like people. In fact, I don’t think any of the gay women I know are obviously gay at immediate sight.**
But then again, we’re talking about the telly here. None of the straight people I know could be mistaken for characters from a TV show either. To say: “the telly is stereotyping my own pet subgroup! None of them look real!” is slightly misleading. It’s not real. Nobody on the telly looks like me, either, strangely enough, and we all know*** that any sort of sex on screen is never like the real thing.
* it’s a very good thing indeed, and particularly important for other sexual subcultures such as BDSM, nowadays in a much more shaky legal situation than vanilla gay couples.
** unless they happen to be snogging their partner at the time, of course.
*** assuming we’re old enough
Being a normal, well-adjusted, modern person, I sometimes forget how bigoted and backwards other people tend to be around here.
Today, I was over at one of our branch offices in Another Part Of The Forest for a few hours. Whilst I was there, one of the staff popped across the road to the local chip shop to get us all dinner. She came back, and we tucked in.
“These are good fishcakes,” said the branch manager. He’s in his mid-30s, he knows how to cook well and dress well, and I assume he’s fairly intelligent.* “You wouldn’t think they were made by a couple of gayboys.” I choked on my coffee, but managed not to say anything. We get on badly enough already.
* Well, his writing is barely functional – I’ve received memos from him, and they’re very badly written, bad enough to be very hard to understand sometimes. But, if you manage to become a branch manager, you can’t be too stupid.
Heard on the radio this morning: a member of the Lords claiming that
gay marriage Civil Partnerships are a bad thing because they’re unpatriotic.* This country was built, apparently, on the values of two parents, their children, and the sacrament of marriage.**
As I’ve said before, my mother is becoming part of the Genealogy Boom, one of the thousands of people who are using the internet to research the names of their ancestors. And, one of the good things about this is that the thousands of people doing this are finding out that the typical Family Values chorus – in the past, everyone lived in a happy, stable two-parent family and the world was a Better Place – really is a load of rubbish. In the past, people didn’t divorce. That’s because they couldn’t afford to. They still had affairs, though, and multiple relationships, and children out of wedlock. Every family has tangled knots in its family tree, because the people in the past really did behave just as badly, or well, as people do today. Family Values is a political myth, and nothing more.
* I tried to look up which specific homophobic peer I was listening to, but her name isn’t listed on the Today website running order, and I don’t want to have to listen to it all again just to catch her name.
** although she claimed that even though she was describing marriage as a sacrament she didn’t mean it in a religious way.