Monday, April 05, 2010
I am not sure if anyone saw the programme on BBC last night, but it seems that a number of Christians believe they are being persecuted and marginalised - especially by the provisions of the soon to be Equality Act 2010.
It's interesting that, following a millennium of persecuting others, they are finally having to face up to the repercussions of that history.
Having watch the programme on BBC last night and on iPlayer today it seems that there are three primary complaints
1. Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter are being taken over by non Christians and renamed. Oddly the presenters of the programme seem to have forgotten that both of those festivals were originally pagan festivals that were hijacked by Christians in order to suppress pagan religions.
2. There is concern over the number of incidents where Christians have recently been penalised for practising their faith publicly or wearing symbols of their faith. Interestingly they seem to ignore the fact that Christians, more than any other faith, have persecuted people who are Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Witches, Pagans and Muslims, to name a few, for practising their lifestyle choices publicly and have for centuries imposed their beliefs on others, often with lethal consequences.
3. Most concern seems to be over the implications of the Equality Act 2010 the provision of which mean that Christians, and everyone else, will be prohibited from discriminating against and persecuting others. Well about time is all I can say.
We live in an increasingly secular state where we have, as a society, decided that allowing one group of people the right to discriminate against another group is unacceptable. It is going to take a while for us to work out in practice what is now being embodied in law, but it really is about time.
On our Trans Awareness workshops we have been slowly modifying the content to reflect the changes that are taking place in equalities law, but more importantly I have been doing a lot of research into the history of homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic discrimination.
The history of misogyny goes back at least to the time of the ancient Greeks. Active campaigning by women over the past century has finally brought us to the point were the law operates in favour of removing discrimination. Yet 40 years after the Equal Pay Act and we discover that in the financial services industry the average pay of men is still 122% higher than the average pay of women. The health sector is not far behind this. Why? well perhaps because we still assume that women do not need as much money as men and that they are less important. And whilst some churches will now ordain women, few allow them to become become bishops and leaders.
But the mistreatment of women is nothing when compared to the way in which homosexual men and trans women have and often still are treated. Still I have people on our workshops arguing that homosexuality is a sin - fundamentally forbidden by god. Yet the references in the bible are few and mostly unclear.
When I looked at the history of the bible it is interesting that the "authorised edition" of the Bible was published in 1611 during the reign James VI. At that time James was encouraging bishops to preach against cross dressing, especially by women and homosexuality or more especially Buggery, was a capital offence. Homosexuality remained a capital offence until 1861 and remained illegal until 1967. There is nothing in the gospels against homosexuality, and often the arguments I hear are based on interpretation of the bible - eg "god made adam and eve - man and woman - therefore homosexuality is a sin"
Yet when we look at nature we see all manner of sexual practices naturally occurring. Of course in biblical times a woman was stoned to death for adultery and we do not do that now because we have moved on. All religious doctrines need to be constantly reassessed against the changing moral codes of current society and that is not happening with homosexuality.
When I talk to Christians about their objection to gay and trans people it becomes clear that the objection is entirely about sexual practice, yet far more heterosexual couples engage in anal intercourse than same sex couples, and of course same sex couples do far more in their lives than just engage in sexual practices.
I think arguments in last nights programme will rage for a while yet and it will be interesting to see how the Equality Act 2010 works in practice, especially if, as currently predicted, we end up with a Conservative government having to implement an important plank of Labour legislation. Interesting times ahead but one thing is now certain - the Equality Act is going to come into law and we are all going to have to learn how to live with each other and reconcile our differences.