Tuesday, December 23, 2008


A Charitable Tip To Christians At Christmas: Gag Your Bishops

Christmas is, more than any time of year, the season when Christianity gets a good press. Huge numbers of people who have no time for churches for eleven months simply like the Victorian traditions and warm, fuzzy bits of the Christmas story. I’m no longer a believer (sorry, Mum and Dad), but last night I was typing to a CD of A Carol Symphony (or ‘that music from The Box of Delights’). So what could possibly go wrong for Christianity at this festive time? Turning on the radio this morning and hearing the Pope and the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool – I’m an ecumenical critic.

If there’s one thing more likely to alienate people from Christianity at Christmas than the Daily Mail shrieking that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost (in between shrieking that there’s chaos / penury on the high street, and promoting its advertisers), it’s pontiffs pontificating, particularly in ways that are self-seeking, un-self-aware and, most of all, stridently attacking love and ordering people about.

Oh, No, Not the Pope Again

Imagine the winces around the breakfast tables of British Christendom, then, when this morning brings news that the Pope chooses Christmas to attack gays and transsexuals and anyone who doesn’t fit, by nature or choice, into his prescribed worldview of sex. Hey ho. Well, we all know the old fascist has a problem there. He’s been queerbashing for years, and we bash the bishop in return. No-one can ever believe that “love” is the founding belief of this loathsome bigot. Admittedly, this morning he’s trying to reach a new low in offensiveness, arguing that people who don’t procreate (and he doesn’t recognise that that’s not all of us anyway) will destroy humanity. As Mr Quist (another fan of Christmas) points out this morning, for the leader of the Catholic Church, this is in so many ways shaky ground. But perhaps I’ve misjudged him. Maybe he was just trying to prepare the ground for his softer side. Is there something you want to tell us, your holiness? Will the New Year bring the patter of little Benedicts?

Using Dead Children To Protect Your Job

Just this once, though, I found an Anglican Bishop far more offensive than Pope Benedict; after all, I’ve had years to get used to the old bigot. If you can stomach it, then, tune in to this morning’s Today Programme and find, from around ten to eight, Thoughtless For the Day, in which the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool starts off merely by being overpoetic and then uses a boy’s murder to make special pleading against disestablishing the Church of England. A more gut-wrenching piece of opportunism is hard to imagine: ‘Save my stipend, or the little babies will get it!’ Of particular note was his one, hurried reference to a Catholic priest who was also involved; because, as is well known, there’s hardly a Catholic to be found in Liverpool, and Catholic churches can’t survive without being organs of the state. Anyone would think that would completely undermine his special pleading. Still, it’s hardly the first time shameless clerics have stood on kids to assert their special rights.

Special Rights To Discriminate Not Popular In Court Shocker

In happier news, then, last week fulminating bigot and hypocrite Lillian Ladele had her demand for special rights over anyone else rejected on appeal. She’d claimed against Islington Council, her secular employer with responsibility for representing all citizens in the borough, that her own personal religious whims should allow her to pick and choose which bit of her secular job to bother to do and which citizens to decide to reject. A registrar, she’d refused to officiate over civil partnerships, claiming this was because her Christian beliefs meant that marriage could only be for one man and one woman, for life. Aside from the fact that, sadly, civil partnerships aren’t marriages, she blatantly perjured herself by having had no problem in marrying divorcees. Oh, but they’re different – they’re not dirty gayers, as her highly-funded-by-extremist-Christians lawyer coached her not to say.

As the lovely Cosmodaddy points out, Ms Ladele was time and again offered compromises by the Council, but she decided that her knee-jerk desire to treat people unequally was so important that the basic element of the Rule of Law that everyone should be treated equally under the law was in fact a Liberal conspiracy to discriminate against her, personally. How the original court case didn’t tell her she was not only wrong but a barking egomaniac is a mystery, but thankfully the Employment Appeal Tribunal decided that her claims were obvious nonsense. As usual, it’s religious bigots calling for special rights for themselves to take rights away from gay, lesbian and bisexual people. After all, can you imagine a court ever siding with a lesbian registrar refusing to marry Christians because they’re against her beliefs, or a Grand Wizard of the KKK in obeying his sincerely held belief that mixed-race marriages are morally wrong? If you want to be a bigot, do it on your own time.

Contrast these quotes. First, the astonishing lies from her lawyer:
“She wants to make it clear that, whatever other commentators may have said, this case has never been an attempt to undermine the rights of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities.
“The evidence showed that Lillian performed all of her duties to the same high standard for the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities, as she did for everyone.”
Except for not touching them with a barge pole and refusing to do her job, obviously. To be fair, she was at least undiscriminating enough to accept gay council tax-payers’ contributions to her pay.

Then there was Justice Sir Patrick Elias, President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, pointing out the “fundamental problem” with the original ruling that there had been religious discrimination (if a little unfair to anarchists):
“Let’s say I am an anarchist and I feel strongly that I want to go around blowing things up, but my employers object.
“It may well be that anarchy is my genuinely held belief. But it does not mean that my employer’s decision not to allow me to is discriminating against that belief.”
A Merry Christmas to all of you at home, and goodwill to all people, including the ones that self-styled Christians shriek false witness against, and here’s a seasonal song for you all.

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Re Thought for the Day: yeah, I gagged enough to actually write a letter of complaint.

Did you notice how what he said and what he argued were different? He was trying to argue the CoE was essential, but each time had to admit "along with the police, teachers, etc". He was trying to argue the CoE was specially caring, but said that without its mandated role it would leave the inner cities. Pathetic.

The pope is totally out of touch. The majority of catholics know he's crazy, but still have respect for him. For example it is extremely rediculous that the Pope still doesn't except the use of condoms. According to the Gospel Jesus spoke up against rediculous laws religious teachers had created, such as he performed a miracle of the Sabbath, which was against their laws, but he did it for a good reason. In the same way people know that condoms are needed to save lives, and to prevent people having unwanted children. But the Pope disagrees with them for no good reason.

I think the majority of Catholics may not fear homosexuality like the Pope does. Of course there is a long way to go for Christians to accept Homosexuality as something wrong. Despite biblical and modern evidence.
Long live the current Pope, for his services to the cause of making soft, "cultural" Catholics feel increasingly uncomfortable. I've never understood wanting to be a member of a religion like Catholicism, which makes it quite clear that the Pope's word is, as it were, gospel, if you don't fully subscribe to the pronouncements made in your name. And yet, hordes of inexplicable "liberal Catholics" are to be found all over the place (even on Lib Dem Voice, I seem to recall). If people want to be members of some wholesome, cuddly community that allows them to define their own relationship with their deity, they should join some other woolly outfit of similarly minded folk.
Admittedly, this morning he’s trying to reach a new low in offensiveness, arguing that people who don’t procreate (and he doesn’t recognise that that’s not all of us anyway) will destroy humanity.

Except that's not actually quite what he said; the media were trying to make a perfectly ordinary bears-in-the-woods incident sound newsworthy, and missing the real objection to what he said in the process. See my analysis here, with link to the full speech in the original Italian.
Thanks, Farah - I'd be interested to hear what the BBC respond to you with... And spot-on last point.

And thanks to both Alasdair and Andy - I'd like to see you two go head to head :D

Now, Liz. Up to a point. I did read your piece, but I think (to follow your arboreal metaphor) you've missed the woods for the trees. I see what you mean about the real objection, but I think in analysing his every word you've missed three things.

If he's using impenetrable allusions that give plausible deniability... What else is it going to mean? And that raises questions that aren't just about the one speech. Look at his record. He's spent many years attacking us for being "objectively disordered"; all his previous hate-filled screeds give us the decoder. It's simply that he's been advised that it's doing their PR no good, so it's a dog-whistle, and hardly a cleverly obscured one.

And finally, all this nonsense about the media spinning the story out of control is, I'm afraid, nonsense. Where do stories come from? When any other political leader makes a long, detailed speech and all the media happen to pick out one particular paragraph and take a particular meaning from it that wasn't spelt out in the speech, it's not an uncanny coincidence. It's the press release and the spin doctors. Same with the Vatican and Westminster Cathedral. It is literally unbelievable that the message that the entire media happened to pick up on wasn't deliberately spun.

The BBC constantly intoning yesterday that he's just a simple academic who's much-misunderstood and merely struggling towards the truth was missing any journalistic scepticism, read as it was directly from Vatican briefing notes.
Sorry, that was probably a bit unseasonably grumpy, Liz. Another interesting look at the detail of what the Pope actually said, then, for those into such a thing, from Andrew Sullivan. And again, on how such hostility to gays ties into views on women.
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