A mad, mad church that won't marry gays

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The Independent Online

Wouldn't it be great to wake up on a Sunday morning, and think: "Whoopee! It's time for church"?

Wouldn't it be great to wake up on a Sunday morning, and think: "Whoopee! It's time for church"?

Leap out of bed, hasty shower, clean shirt, got to get there early, bound to be a queue, meet your mates at the back for a chat, possibly a pint or a reviving sherry, then "grab a pew" and it's heads down for some serious worship, a couple of lusty hymns, some good, funny, knockabout stuff from the pulpit, a hasty prayer and then, oh what a drag. It's over already? I was just getting into that. Never mind. Lots of like-minded people around.

"Anybody fancy coming back to my place for a bit of extra worship?" Round up half a dozen Christians, a couple of bottles of red and a Party Can, then back to the flat for some serious veneration, lasting till midnight or beyond, but only because we're having such a good time. Then the regretful departures. "No, no. I can't sit around here praying any longer. I've got to get up in the morning. See you next Sunday." Now, that's what I call a day of rest.

Not likely to happen, though. I don't know why it is, but when some people develop a belief in God, any sense of tolerance, compassion, humility, humour or, worse, a sense of a shared humanity, flies straight out the stained-glass window.

I see now that Mary MacLeod, chief executive of the Government's advisory body on family policy (as if my family is any of the Government's business) has said that homosexual marriage is "inevitable". Jack Straw says he's thinking about it, but wouldn't vote for it himself. Some of us might call this progress. Others differ.

One such is Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, who not only believes in God (which is fine: so do I), but also presumes to be able to speak for Him, which some might think a tad presumptuous.

"Marriage is a special institution," says Mr Hart. "And it can only be for one man and one woman." Oh yeah? I'd have thought that a God that can make every snowflake unique might have other ideas. I'd have thought that the Creator of an entire universe and everything in it (includinghomosexuals, presumably) might have a little more imagination than Mr Hart. He might also prefer his emissaries on Earth to be part of a church that welcomes anybody, rather than one that practises sexual apartheid. "I see Jenny and Susan are getting hitched on Friday," thinks God. "Good. They were made for each other - literally. Must make sure the weather stays fine."

What does it take to drag the Christian church, kicking and screaming as they say, not into the 21st century but back to the first? My suspicion is that too much time is spent reading the Old Testament, wallowing in all that "eye for an eye" stuff; not to mention seed falling on stony ground and Sodom and Gomorrah (and what is Gomorrah, anyway?).

Look again at the New Testament, Mr Hart and others, and see what your main man had to say, not just about loving your neighbours, but loving your enemies also. Then have a good scratch around and see if you can find the passage in which he says: "Peter, you shall be the rock of my church. Just make sure you keep the gays out." I don't think so.

If there is a flaw in humanity, it's not that some of us want to jump into bed with others of the same sex; it's that mad people posit a mad God and then expect the rest of us to share in their madness.

"All things bright and beautiful," runs the old hymn. "The Lord God made them all." Well, a lot of homosexuals of my acquaintance are not only bright but very beautiful, too. And those who use organised religion not only to exclude fellow human beings, but also to judge them, are far from bright and certainly not beautiful. Don't worry, Mr Hart. God still loves you. I just wish I did.