Friday, 13 April 2012

Things You're Not Supposed to Say

For the last few days (I haven't been able to find out exactly how long) the following advert has been showing on buses all over London, sponsored by Stonewallin support of gay marriage:


Yesterday afternoon, the Guardian reported that Christian group the Core Issues Trust (which is against gay marriage), was about to run its own advertising campaign in response, deliberately mimicking the format used by Stonewall:


This advertising campaign had been agreed by Transport for London and passed by the Committee of Advertising Practise, and was about to go ahead when London Mayor Boris Johnson intervened, by ordering transport chiefs to pull the advert.

Not very many years ago, homosexuals were a persecuted minority in this country and I have to hold my hands up and say that sadly, certainly some, and probably quite a lot of the oppression and persecution that homosexuals have experienced has been at the hands of hard-line evangelical "Christians". This was a sorry state of affairs (and still is in many circles) and campaigning groups like Stonewall have done an excellent and effective job of redressing this imbalance. However, they have unfortunately also done a good job of vilifying anyone who disagrees with them, to the extent that the words, "prejudice", "bigotry" and "homophobia" are now automatically bandied about whenever anyone tries to suggest that their preferred solutions might not always be in their own or the rest of society's best interests.

I have what could probably be termed an "evangelical" approach to sex. This doesn't mean - in case you were wondering - that I go around telling everyone how great it is and trying to make people do more of it! (I do think sex is great though and I have been known to say so publicly on occasion!). This does mean that I have a particular perspective on what sex is and what it is for.

To me (and to many others like me), sex and the body are sacred. Sex is an amazing and beautiful process by which two people of opposite and complementing gender are united as one in holy and intimate love. Through this process a new "entity" is formed, which incorporates both (and becomes the potential basis for a new family). This is why evangelical Christians tend to reject most forms of sexual intimacy outside of a committed, life-long, heterosexual relationship.

"Gay marriage" attempts to redefine what this unit can consist of. It is natural and obvious that two people of the same gender who love and are sexually attracted to one another will want to express that attraction and live or even spend their lives together, but this is not the same thing as a "marriage" in the conventional sense. Gay couples cannot biologically have children and do not bring two complementing gender identities to a relationship. As for those who go on to adopt or artificially conceive children - psychologists have long understood that in a heterosexually based family both genders play important roles at different stages in a child's development. This is not something that a gay couple is able to offer. In my opinion then, a committed gay relationship and a heterosexual marriage are not equivalent or equal - however much some might want them to be - and it is unfair of homosexual campaigners to pretend otherwise, or to try to redefine the language that we have been using for hundreds of years in order to push this agenda on the rest of us.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Hunger Games

The weekend before last (OK, so I'm getting a bit behind with my posts!) I went to see The Hunger Games.

For those who haven't seen it and are not familiar with the plot, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic future in a nation called PanEm, in the geographical area that was once North America. PanEm consists of 12 impoverished districts, which are ruled by a totalitarian government based in the wealthy and technologically advanced Capitol. As punishment for a previous rebellion, each year the districts must send 2 children each, from between the ages of 12-18 to compete in a televised fight to the death called, "The Hunger Games", from which only one contestant is allowed to emerge alive.

The film follows a girl called Katniss in particular, and also a guy called Peeta, as they are selected, trained for, and then compete in the games. None of the competitors want to be there, but they must learn to survive, and be willing and able to kill their fellow competitors if they want to make it back home alive to their families and friends.

During the preparation period, before they enter the arena, Peeta confides to Katniss, "I don't want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not." This is the main dilemma faced by Peeta and Katniss (and many of the other contestants). They have been placed in a situation which has completely different rules from the ones that - in their hearts - they know they should be following, and indeed want to follow, and yet if they don't follow the rules of the game they are almost certain to lose everything. How will they respond?

I won't spoil the film for you if you haven't already seen it - and if you have, then you won't need my explanation - but it struck me that to some extent this is a dilemma shared by all of us. We live in a world that seems to be governed by many Rules that in our heart of hearts we would perhaps rather not have to follow. I'm not referring so much now though to rules made by governments, I'm thinking instead about the Rules that seem to emerge by themselves and which we come to accept as simply, "the way things are". Rules like, "it's a dog eat dog world", or, "you have to look out for number one", or even perhaps, "charity begins at home". It would be nice we might think, to look out for other people, to put their needs first and give to anyone who has need, but the world just doesn't work like that. We have to put our own needs first or we will lose out, and sometimes even our survival must take precedence over everything else.

Just over 2,000 years ago, another player entered the "arena" that is our world and chose to do things very differently. He challenged injustice, spent himself on behalf of others and didn't respond with violence even when others tried to kill him. The result? - he was tortured and then executed - just as you might expect, in accordance with the Rules in the previous paragraph. If that had been the end of the story, it would have simply confirmed our suspicion that no-one can get away with breaking the Rules for very long! Fortunately for us though, this wasn't the end, because for some reason, when this particular player chose not to play by the Rules, something very special happened ... he broke The Game!

The Bible teaches us that the world was never meant to work according to these Rules, rather, these are the Rules that came into play when people decided they wanted to run the world their way and could do so without any help from God. When God himself (in the person of Jesus) entered The Game and disobeyed its Rules, The Game broke, because it didn't have any power over the one who had created the world in the first place. It cost God dearly to do that - he paid the price demanded by The Game - but The Game couldn't keep him down. On the third day, he rose again bodily from the grave, appeared to his disciples, and returned to Heaven from whence he came. After this, he clothed his followers in Rule-breaking power and they went on to sacrifice themselves tirelessly and unselfishly to spread the message of his triumph, releasing everyone who believed their message to live their lives free from the Rules of The Game.