The Co-op Bank does not want to hold an account for Christian Voice. The Bank is taking this stance because of the organisation’s attitude to homosexuals. It says ‘99% of Christians would not support the level of discrimination against homosexuals urged by Christian Voice’
In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme Simon Williams for the Bank said ‘They are extreme views. They are not mild views… They simply do not fit with our ethical policies… such as… “Homosexual policemen are corrupted by what they do. How can they investigate cases of corruption?”’
Having seen the Christian Voice web site, which has a large section devoted to the participation of police in gay pride marches, it does appear that Christian Voice has an obsession with homosexuality which seems unusual. They do not, for example, suggest that divorced police officers should not investigate matrimonial disputes, or that police officers who commit adultery should not investigate cases of corruption. And whereas they may consider that homosexual activity is a crime against God, it is not, like adultery, also a crime against the spouses of those who engage in adulterous relationships.
It looks as though homosexuals are being singled out for hatred as the Co-op Bank say.
The Archbishop of Canterbury referred to this kind of behaviour in his presidential address to the Anglican Consultative Council on 20 June 2005. He said:
We are always in danger of the easiest religious technique of all, the search for the scapegoat; Paul insists without any shadow of compromise upon our solidarity in rebellion against God, and so tells us that we shall not achieve peace and virtue by creating a community we believe to be pure. And these words are spoken both to the Jew and the Gentile, both to the prophetic radical and the loyal traditionalist. The prophet, says Barth, ‘knows the catastrophe of the Church to be inevitable’ and he knows also that there is no friendly lifeboat into which he can clamber and row clear of the imminent disaster.’
‘We are all butchers pretending to be sacrificers. When we understand this, the skandalon that we had always managed to discharge upon some scapegoat becomes our own responsibility, a stone as unbearably heavy upon our hearts as Jesus himself upon the saint’s shoulders in the Christopher legend’. Not Barth this time, but René Girard, the French philosopher (A Theatre of Envy: William Shakespeare, p.341), once again paraphrasing Paul’s central theme.
I’d like to ask why Christian Voice should particularly choose to scapegoat the gay community. In one sense, the question has no rational answer. It is as incomprehensible as the idea which erupted in many parts of Europe in the middle ages that Jews took Christian boys to sacrifice at Passover. Both are just examples of a group finding solidarity in turning their corporate wrath on to a scapegoat. We can possibly appreciate how people in the middle ages might have perceived those of different faith or customs to be a threat. But what threat could a homosexual person possibly pose to heterosexual people? The gay man is not going to steal my wife, and I know that sex with any other person, male or female, breaks the marriage vows which I took before God and in the eyes of the state.
So is the problem for Christian Voice precisely that the gay man does not want my wife? He doesn’t envy me for having an attractive wife, or see me as a rival for someone he desires? Reading the Archbishop’s references to Girard, is the perceived problem about gay people the fact that they seem often so envy free in comparison with those whose role model is the dominant male? Is that why they are victimised?
Or is it particularly for men who see themselves as dominant, a fear of being raped? Often they are the people who maintain that the Church must be led by men, and that women should “submit” to their husbands. Such men enjoy dominance, and see that view supported by scripture. For such a person, homosexual rape is the ultimate humiliation. This is the story of the men of Sodom in Genesis 19 and one can see how repugnant it is. But Lot’s solution ‘Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please.’ is even more horrific: he appears to treat his daughters as property which he can give for anyone to abuse.
Within a Christian context the situation in Uganda where in 1885 King Mwanga had three pages dismembered and burned for rejecting his homosexual advances is almost equally well known. The young men are rightly regarded as martyrs.
Homosexual rape is an extreme example of male domination, with a specific intention of humiliating the victim. Of course, fear of this kind of activity should give men an insight in to the horror which any woman has of being raped, and this danger is much greater than the danger to men. It is at least arguable that throughout the Bible what is condemned about homosexual activity is that it is not seen as an act of love but of repugnant male violence by a dominant person against an unwilling, weaker sexual partner.
But a loving partnership of two people of the same sex is completely different from that. For, just as one would hope that in a marriage the partners should seek each other’s greatest good and happiness in their sexual activity, one would suppose that the same intentions would be present in a homosexual couple. The law provides protection against rape both for homosexual and heterosexual couples, even where the latter are married. It is for the individual to judge whether sexual activity is consensual or abusive.
To my mind that should be the limit of the church’s concern about homosexual couples. After all, in Britain today, we have far more unmarried heterosexual couples, and they aren’t the recipients of abuse and hatred all the time from ‘Christian Voice’.
In my view the Co-op Bank was right to draw attention to the bigoted homophobic victimization of the gay community by ‘Christian Voice’. Would that others might adopt a similarly ethical stance.