Posted on CentreRight on 23 December 2008
The Pope has said that saving people from homosexuality is as important as saving the rainforests ... something like that was the first thing I heard this morning, weaving my way back to consciousness, to the headlines on Today. I look at Keith. He looks at me. Is the tea ready?
Yes, this is going to be personal, but I don't think that matters, in fact it might be important. Some Christian leaders say these things, I think, because - unlike the wholly wonderful Archbishop of Canterbury - they think that a focus on the bigger picture is more important than consideration of individuals. When the leading Vatican official in October described homosexuality as a deviation, an irregularity, a wound I imagine he was thinking of the bigger picture, and not about all the individuals he must know who are physical manifestations of this deviation, this irregularity, this wound.
The bigger picture goes something like this: God determined that we would have two genders, and that only single couples formed from one of each of those genders would sexually couple, and then only for the reason of reproduction. Therefore, any deviation from this pattern is a sin, is sinful, and ... this is where it breaks down a bit ... homosexuality is particularly wrong, almost uniquely so in the universe of pathology, probably because it mimics a bit too closely for comfort the ideal model. I've written elsewhere that we make too big a fetish of our biological variability, and that such a fetish leads to the growth of Identity Politics (one thing the Pope and I can agree upon).
OK but let's give the Pope's ideas a go. Let's do a thought experiment. Turn left. Rewind the clock. Let's start the day again, but without the homosexuality:
The Pope has said that saving people from homosexuality is as important as saving the rainforests ... something like that was the first thing I heard this morning, weaving my way back to consciousness, to the headlines on Today. I look at Keith. He looks at me. What are you doing in my bed?
Err, I dunno, sorry, some sort of an irregularity. Won't happen again. He leaves for work. He leaves for good, of course. The path of this good man's life, which is spent in acts of duty and care to others, leads to ... nothing. An empty bed and a solitary grave. None I think do there embrace. At least he's free of being a wound, an irregularity or a deviation.
I find an article I once wrote, about waking from a nightmare, with the sweat of the dread on my brow. I'm sure it once ended: It's OK. Not alone. Not alone. Now it ends: Alone. Leafing through the photo albums I find all these blank spaces, where holidays didn't happen, families weren't visited, children weren't loved, weddings didn't happen, connections weren't made. Only disconnect.
Fast forward a few years, and the stability which my psychology requires having vanished, my life goes off the rails. I catch my last glimpse of Keith while I'm waiting in the GP surgery to have my blood pressure checked. I see his large frame pass by the window, taking his dog to the park. The affection of dogs for humans, and vice versa, mercifully left uncontaminated by doctrinal urging.
This experiment has to end now, sorry. Not alone. Not alone.
There is no bigger picture. You, and how you interact with the people who are close to you, are all that matters in this world. All you can change is all you can know and all you can touch. I think this is part of what Dr Williams was saying in his wonderful article earlier in the week. The Pope can wish the love I have for Keith out of existence if he wishes: if he could do it, if he could wipe the world free of my deviation, my irregularity, my wound, the only outcome would be a reduction in the amount of love on the Earth. Is that the church's message to the planet?
You probably know that the title of this piece comes from the work of a certain lady, whose humanity and complex thinking about human beings had such an impact on my early life. The picture on the right is the portrait by Tom Phillips, which you can see at the National Portrait Gallery, if it's still hanging. One of her sentences occurs to me every day, because I believe it to be very true. It's my credo, if you like. In the end, all our failures are failures of love. I am very imperfect, and my life is filled with many such failures, but my love for the good man who shares his life with me is not one of them.
Merry Christmas everybody.