This article was originally published in OUT Bristol magazine.
David Cameron has moved his party on leaps and bounds from its deeply homophobic past. Yet, when he calls for Christians to be “tolerant” and “welcoming” in light of a recent adoption ruling, we all know that he is referring to some within his own party. For Cameron, Christianity will be one of the major battle grounds where his vision of an inclusive form of Conservatism is contested. He has to prove that he has at least thought about how the two can be reconciled otherwise his words are just that – words!
British politics has a very recent and very bleak history in relation to homophobia which still frames the current debate. Throughout the 1987 election campaign, the Conservative party campaigned on a heavily homophobic stance with election posters having slogans such as ‘Young, Gay and Proud…Labour’s idea for good education for your children’. Outrageous in our eyes – a good election strategy for the late 1980’s Tories! I won’t mention the scandal that broke just before the May 2010 election in relation to Mr Grayling (current Minister for Work and Pensions)!
It was only in 1994 that our enlightened leaders chose to legalize “sodomy”. The very word “sodomy” holds long rooted biblical significance coming from the wildly misquoted story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Too often, the LGB community roles over and accepts that Christianity and Homosexuality are incompatible. I believe it essential to tackle such ideas.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah was a story that aimed to highlight the morality around hospitality; the sexual undertones are minor, if there at all. The argument goes that Lot was giving hospitality to an unknown stranger, and the men of the city gathered to ‘know’ who this stranger was. The argument that this can be understood in term of homosexual relations is weak; to imply that God destroyed Sodom for this reason is weaker still. This story is also later referred to by Jesus (Matthew 10:14 15) where he implies the story has more to do with hospitality that homosexuality. He said “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town”.
The status of hospitality over sexual morality is highlighted by the fact that when Jericho was destroyed by the Lord, the one person spared was a prostitute, despite prostitution being prohibited (Leviticus 19:29), because she offered hospitality. It would suggest therefore that the “homosexual” understanding of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah has more to do with modern and post-modernist understandings of sexual morality than it does with the story itself, which is based predominantly around hospitality. If we did choose to understand it in relation to sexual morality we have trouble explaining the climax of the story with Lot being seduced by his two daughters.
This does not stop homophobic politicians using Christianity to hide behind to avoid facing up to their own prejudices.
If Cameron really wants to win over the LGB community, I would like to see him engage the Christian community on these difficult issues rather than lazily accepting the out-dated discourse that Christians can be homophobes because the bible tells them so. At the very least we have to understand these attitudes as a subjective understanding of Christianity.
Should the state be there to lazily force Christians to be “tolerant”? I suggest only as a last resort. Before that it should be the politician’s responsibility to argue and persuade people of these views. Maybe this is why we have experienced such a harsh backlash from many within the Christian community.
Therefore this piece finishes with a fun challenge. Write to Mr Cameron asking him how he thinks his “deep rooted Christian beliefs” fit with his open belief in sexual equality. Does he think they are compatible?
I think they are, but it would be good to hear the leader of our country say so.