I prattle: "Is this an awkward time?"
God muses: "No. Now, the Middle Ages - there was an awkward time. Plague, war, religious fundamentalism ..."
I can't help saying it: "Same as it ever was."
God stops, swivels: "Don't blame me. I gave you lot free will, remember."
I stare back. God is uncomfortable: "Why are you glaring at Me?"
I hesitate, plunge on: "It's ... it's ... Let's put it this way. When Moses looked upon the face of God, I don't think it was covered in mud."
God grimaces: "Mud? Mud! You mean My deep cleansing pack ... Oh, stop grinning. It's Sunday and I'm resting. And firming and toning. I am older than Methuselah, you know."
He makes a gesture (a big circle that he dots in the middle) and the mud pack vanishes. I love it when He does things like that. God snorts: "And Moses look upon my face? Hardly. He'd be glued to the tops of his Dr Scholl's, then take the damn sandals off - have you ever smelt the feet of someone who has wandered for 40 years in the desert? - and mumble about holy ground, like I was the turf at St James's Park and he was a Newcastle supporter. I'd say, 'Mo, Mo, take a peek, for God's sake - literally.' And he'd mutter that it wasn't done. Not that the encounter was written up that way. Is it any wonder I've a reputation for being stand-offish?"
I know this rap. He's off: "It's the Bible. The Bible. What have I told you?"
I play my part: " 'It's a good book but not the Good Book' ?"
"No, the other thing."
"Wait a second - 'The Bible is not the authorised biography.' ''
God's voice shakes: "Exactly. Jeffrey Archer gets fewer rewrites, less editing ... and royalties.
"I ask you - in the Old Testament I'm a cruel and selfish God holding the sun in the sky because Joshua and his army haven't slaughtered enough of the foe, and I'm supposed to give them another six daylight hours to achieve complete genocide, as if I'd sanction that, and in the New Testament I'm some sort of radical hippy, overflowing with so much milk of human kindness I practically moo. Serious image consultant problem here, right? That's what happens when a committee - no, a quango - reinterprets a life story to their own terms. But has anyone noticed? Heaven forbid!" God shrugs: "Why do some people insist on inserting words into My mouth and then taking what I haven't said as ..."
"Gospel?" I suggest.
I play Him like a harp: "Strange You should mention that. The evangelical Reform group, responding to a study that shows increasing support for the ordination of openly gay clergy, claim that homosexuals can't be ordained as Church of England priests because every word of the Bible is true and comes directly from You, particularly the stuff in Leviticus on sodomy."
God groans "Strictly for headbangers. Homosexuality is classified as an abomination, and so is eating shellfish. Pretty boys and prawns, both carrying death sentences. I ask you."
I need to be clear: "You never said it?"
God grants me The Look again: "What do you think?"
I blush: "So how come the sentiment's there at all?" God says: "Simple. I made man in my image and man makes me in his. And hers. It's a two-way street, and necessary ... to a degree. Sigmund calls it ..."
I interrupt: "Projection."
God nods: "Just so. But the notion that I've condemned gay men as somehow spiritually unable, as not being able to do My work is an abomination." God gets glum: "Sexuality was My gift. It's to be enjoyed, unless it's about the abuse of power and deliberate, unwanted, pain. I'm more concerned about love, in the concrete and in the abstract. Fundamentalists seem to have more difficulty with that concern than any gay man I ever created."
I sit up: "You create gay men?"
His voice twinkles: "Do you know how close the world came to Adam and Evan?" He laughs: "Besides, if they banished all the homosexuals in the Church of England there would be no Church of England."
I smirk: "The Vatican would be empty ..."
God rattles on: "No musicals, no haute couture, British Airways grounded ..." God stops, shakes his head: "Damn Reform. Just because support for ordination of gays is growing and there's discontent over the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. Literal and direct, indeed. Get them to explain Titus 1:12: 'One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said: "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons".' Come, come. How can anyone believe that's true and will always be true?"
I relax: "I must tell James."
God chuckles: "James being your friend Will's priest-boyfriend."
I keep forgetting He's everywhere: "Right - as usual."
God rubs his chin: "Not as usual. But right about this, definitely. Tell James not to worry. I have plans for him and My work."
I say I will. And: "What else didn't you say?"
"It was so long ago."
"No, please. Concentrate. Let's see ... Did you say 'Go forth and multiply'? " God leans forward, pats my hand: "John, I honestly can't remember. But if I did, trust me, it must have been to the first mathematician."Reuse content