Category Archives: Belfast Pride 2011
A few people have suggested to me that I gave my Faith and Pride talk, Jonathan Loved David, to be offensive. Nothing could be further from the truth. I gave that talk because it was what I sincerely believe, and I thought other people would be interested in what I had to say. Faith and Pride isn’t about being argumentative or offensive, it is about putting forward an alternative point of view. It is about saying that you can be gay and Christian.
There are some Christians who find that offensive. Equally well, there are some Christians who find it offensive to say that you can’t be gay and Christian. However, just because one group has beliefs that are offensive to another group, it doesn’t mean that the first group should be afraid to say what it believes.
This isn’t just confined to issues surrounding gay people and Christianity. Roman Catholics believe that the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. The Westminster Confession of Faith has this to say about the Pope.
There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV, section VI
There can be no doubt that that statement is offensive to Catholics. Does that mean that churches that adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, such as the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, shouldn’t be allowed to express their beliefs? Or maybe Catholics shouldn’t be allowed to express their beliefs because they are offensive to Free Presbyterians?
This even goes beyond issues that only concern Christians. The majority of Jews and Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, which is a position that is offensive to the majority of Christians. Does that mean that Jews and Muslims should not be able to express their beliefs, lest a Christian is offended? Or maybe it is Christians who should remain silent, for fear of offending people from other faiths. Taking it a step further, many atheists find any expression of a belief in god offensive, and many people of faith find an expression of atheism offensive. Should one group be silenced to avoid offending another?
In Northern Ireland, we understand what it is like to live in a society without religious tolerance. We know how damaging that can be. In Northern Ireland we are learning what it is like to live in a society with religious tolerance, and we are seeing how wonderful that is. Religious tolerance means you can freely believe whatever you want, but that means you must also allow other people to believe what they want. Putting it another way, you have the right to stand up and say what you believe, but you do not have the right to stop someone else standing up and saying what they believe, no matter how much it offends you.
Faith and Pride’s inaugural event kicks off on July 24th with Andrew McFarland setting out to demonstrate that the language used in the Bible to describe the relationship between David and Jonathan is the same as the language used to describe the relationship between husband and wife.
Speaking before the event, Andrew said:
The evidence is compelling. David and Jonathan spoke about each other as if they were spouses, and aspects of their relationship only make sense if you see them as a couple.
The whole context of their relationship – they even had a formal covenant between them because of their love – suggest that they were more than just friends.
Members of the public are very welcome to come to the event which is being held in All Souls’ Church, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, at 7pm. The second talk of the evening will be by Paula Rita Tabakin who will explore homosexuality from a Jewish reform perspective using texts and traditions.
Just like straight people, gay people are a diverse bunch. On one hand there are the drug-fuelled, sexually promiscuous party-goers, and on the other hand there are the couples in decades-long stable, faithful relationships. Because of that diversity you can’t look at one part of the spectrum and judge the whole continuum based on one small sample.
Similarly Christians are a diverse bunch. In Northern Ireland we have a number of big denominations – the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Church of Ireland, and the Methodist Church in Ireland. As well as those four, we have many smaller denominations, such as the Free Presbyterian Church, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Baptists, and the Christadelphians. There is even, on the Cliftonville Road, the Antiochian Orthodox Church of Saint Ignatius.
You can’t look at part of the Christian church and judge all of Christianity on one small sample. Even when the names of the denominations are similar, you will find huge differences: my husband and I are welcomed as members of a Non-Subscribing Presbyterian church, while one of the key protest groups at the annual Belfast Pride parade is organised by a minister from a Free Presbyterian church.
Today in Belfast, a group called CORE, a Christian group which supports “men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference”, is holding a one-day seminar at Belvoir Parish Church. A lot of LGBT people and their friends and families are very upset about this and are planning to protest outside.
Whether they mean to or not, CORE supports the idea that being gay is somehow a lesser option than being straight. They support the idea that being gay is a problem, something that can be fixed. In turn that idea harms gay people, sometimes very seriously.1 As a gay Christian, I do not support CORE. I don’t believe that the Bible says you can (or should) change your sexual orientation; as a matter of fact I believe that the Bible celebrates the love between Jonathan and David (which will be the core of my talk during Pride Week 2011). So, to gay people who are disgusted at Christianity because of CORE, I say this: don’t look at just that part of the Christian spectrum. Come to the Faith and Pride talk and see another part of Christianity. It is a part of Christianity that accepts and supports you for who you are, rather than pressuring you – even unintentionally – into changing your sexual orientation.
And to any Christians who are disgusted at gay people because of the protest at Belvoir today I say this: don’t just look at that part of the LGBT spectrum. Come to the Faith and Pride talk and see another part of the LGBT community. It is a part of the LGBT community that accepts God, Jesus Christ and the Bible just as readily as you do.
The Faith and Pride talk takes place on Sunday the 24 July at 7 p.m. in All Souls’ Church on Elmwood Avenue, Belfast.
1 Wayne Besen‘s book Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-gay Myth and the website Truth Wins Out describe the harm that therapy to change sexual orientation can cause.