Nothing makes you more aware of the power of narratives as being a Conservative Catholic. I use the capital letters deliberately for one reason: I am, by no means, a small-c conservative from a Catholic point of view. In fact, bar my dislike for horrible church music, and my love for Latin and lace veils, and a bit more doctrinal orthodoxy than the caricature of the “Spirit of Vatican II” generation I am pretty much, without a shadow of a doubt a liberal Catholic. I will read Fr James Martin’s “Building a Bridge” with an open mind, because I agree with what he is trying to do. This makes me a pariah with any Catholic of my generation, judging from the stuff that goes around my Facebook feed.
My exposure to a considerable amount of “the gay lifestyle” predates my joining the Conservative party by many years, but it is undeniable that being in a party which has such a growing out-of-the-closet LGBT presence (and that’s without counting the age old in-the-closet one) is not conductive to the kind of mentality that sees an agenda instead of people just like me.
Just yesterday, an image propped up on my Facebook timeline: it was a group of people who attended the Dublin gay pride march taking a picture with a sculpture of the crucifixion, with what looks like a rainbow tie put around Our Lord’s neck. It could be seen as a blasphemous image with the intent to mock Christianity. It can also be seen as an attempt to suggest that Jesus was with them. As with any image, you interpret them. Some interpretations are more reasonable than others, and I don’t think that assuming an irreverent intent is misplaced. However, the reaction is what most epitomises the sense of a divide between Christians and LGBT people even when plenty of either group just happen to be both. The reaction was calling it a clear attack on what we believe, an indication of the agenda that LGBT people have to bring down Western civilisation. It is effectively a question of what side you are on in a culture war. It can seem like a fair question if you, like me, are attracted to the opposite sex and can easily slip into the accepted roles that the Church has already defined. It doesn’t seem that fair anymore if you are not attracted to the opposite sex, even if you lead a saint-like celibate life that puts me in my right place as an absolute mess of a Christian. And to look at the T part of it is to open an even bigger can of worms.
I think it is not a fair question when you are in that position because it conflates being attracted to people of the same sex with what is a political stance of a limited number of people. As much as I have a problem with the feminist movement, it’s like conflating feminism with the group that thinks heterosexual intercourse is a tool of the patriarchy and basically rape. While the stance is real and worrying and must be resisted, it mustn’t be resisted at all costs when the cost is human beings. However, the current situation between Christians and LGBT people seems to me an all-out war. The leader of the Liberal Democrats was even more unpopular than his party at the election on the grounds that he did not clearly state that he doesn’t believe homosexual acts are a sin, despite a voting record that many considered alright. For many, the heaviness of the (perceived) judgement was still too much, despite the fact that a genuine Christian thinks of themselves as a sinner, and a saint as the bigger sinners of all. A similar reaction followed the whole Conservative/DUP deal, and before then many people were criticising the Church of England because a bishop in a celibate same-sex relationship could not have sex.
It isn’t surprising that Christians feel some sort of white persecution which seeks to hound them out of public life, and those who are especially prone to martyr-syndrome see everyone whose ideas aren’t as pure and orthodox as theirs as a sell-out who will see their own version of “Silence” like the Jesuits in 17th century Japan. You don’t quite need to be a member of One Body One Faith to be inclusive, but it sometimes feels that way. And the problem is, it feels like that from both sides: one refuses to accept (most) Christians don’t think people are worthless because of a poorly understood concept like sin, and the other side refuses to contemplate the idea being LGBT is not something you have any control over, and doesn’t automatically make you intent on bringing down Western civilisation and all that is sacred. And this without looking at the people who belong to both groups and have to balance this out without a choice to step back from it all, which at the end of the day I have.
London’s Pride parade will be on the 8th of July. Every year, a group of Christians marches in the parade, and every year I wonder if I should ask for a pass. I want to support them in their mission to bring a loving presence on a day that means a lot to many LGBT people. It’s not an endorsing of a revolutionary agenda of any kind. I never do it, and the reason why I always end up feeling like I can’t is that it seems nobody is willing to have the conversation half-way, and that makes me scared of showing up on my own. I don’t know if I have a place there. With people politicising the act to gather support for one side or the other, any good intention can be mistaken for something it’s not. So I never have the courage to go. But then, every year, I am taken over by regret that I haven’t stood up for something I believe in for fear of judgement (to both sides of the divide), and therefore I am guilty of expecting everyone else to build the bridge. Am I not in politics because I want to be the change I want to see in the world? But then, again, is Pride the right place? It has so much baggage even not all LGBT people are fans. And related to this baggage is the fact that, at the end of the day, for all the openness to allies (I think I’ve seen more LGBT+ Tory events than a lot of gays) I am not a LGBT person. I don’t have an issue being mistaken for one (cue that everyone thinks I have a girlfriend) but if I am, that implies there is the expectations that it is a space for them and I am trespassing. I could go on forever. So, what is a girl to do?