An interesting feature of the LGBT support group Stonewall is its propensity for social climbing. Once a counter-cultural ginger group named after a Greenwich Village cafe, it is now well-established as adviser by appointment to the establishment. Indeed, it is all too familiar with the values of that establishment. Places on its courses run regularly up and down the country on such things as homophobic language and trans-inclusive schools, not to mention ‘train the trainer’, are available for only £200 + VAT per person for non-profits, itself a big discount on the rate of £399 charged to commercial organisations avid to satisfy a corporate conscience.
You might have thought that this slightly pushy organisation would have some trouble with organised religion. Not a bit of it. Caroline Farrow on TCW pointed out at the end of last year that it had managed to infiltrate religious schools, courtesy of well-meaning Christians desperate to avoid giving offence. Thus a Church of England report targeted at faith schools and aimed at suppressing traditional ideas of marriage and child-rearing turned out to have been partly written by two senior Stonewall executives, who needless to say did not identify themselves as such. At the same time the Catholic Education Service’s guidance for its own schools on the issue of LGBT matters equally transpired to have been largely copied from Stonewall’s own literature. And a couple of years ago a 98 per cent Muslim school in Luton was gleefully reported at a Stonewall educational conference to have accepted a head of RE openly determined to question Muslim family morality at every opportunity.
But why infiltrate when you can claim support from the very top? In a bizarre Guardian article last week, Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt (who, to be fair, professes the Catholic faith) claimed that none other than Pope Francis was on Stonewall’s side. The Pope had reportedly told a gay man and clerical abuse victim: ‘God made you like this and loves you like this.’ This phrase Ms Hunt joyfully interpreted as showing that His Holiness had cast off his fuddy-duddy difficulties with gay sex and now supported the Stonewall view that all sexualities were equal and should be celebrated. This episode is worth looking at, if only for the light it throws on the Stonewall attitude to both truth and logic.
For one thing, it is hard for any sensible reader to see that these words represent any big deal at all. We are all sinners, and the idea that God made us as we are, and that He loves us as we are, would not have raised an eyebrow 100, or even 2,000, years ago. To read this, as apparently Ms Hunt does, as meaning that God not only loves sinners but is happy with their sinful state and would not wish to change them (in her words ‘God made us just as we should be, there are no mistakes’), looks like either perversity or deliberate misconstrual.
Much more to the point, however, Ms Hunt’s article – which repays careful reading – inadvertently reveals a great deal about herself and the twenty-first century modern attitudes to religion which she unhesitatingly accepts. Take three statements she makes, all apparently exuding sweet reason but in fact creating great difficulty. Religion, she says, ‘can often be the area of life that people find the most difficult to reconcile with their identity’. Some people ‘say that LGBT people can’t exist in faith communities’. And finally, ‘religions teach that God is love, so it should be integral that all members of the community and their relationships are respected’. Now, identity may be many things, but except to those with very unhealthy obsessions, your sexuality does not make you who you are, any more than your sporting prowess or taste in music. Nobody, as far as I know, says that LGBT people cannot exist in faith communities; if you think about it, this is a preposterous statement, since criticising sexual behaviour is not denying anyone’s ability to exist. As for the third statement, it is a simple non-sequitur: Heaven forbid that the fact that I love my children should mean I must approve of all their relationships.
What Stonewall and Ms Hunt are really calling for is a sort of #MeToo version of Christianity: a superficial reading of God’s love that gives everyone the right to participate in the benefits of it, but on their own terms and without any requirements being placed on them that they feel uncomfortable with. Now, if they want to view religion in that way it is their right. However, it is nothing like any version of Christianity that I know of, where I am the servant of God and not vice versa. God may put conditions on my benefiting from His love and forgiveness: it is the supreme arrogance for me to try to put my own conditions on my accepting it. But then arrogance has never been very far from the ever-increasing operations of Stonewall aimed at imposing its world view on the rest of us.