Over the past six months I have been going through a deep sense of contemplation about who I am, my place in the world and how I am perceived by others. Call it a mid life crisis (though that must have come to me a while ago!), however I think it is to do with recent events that have affected all of us. Those seminal moments that we don’t choose but with which we are confronted.
First challenge for me was the above picture posted by a friend on Face Book. Suffice to say that I was insulted but kept those feelings of hurt and anger to myself using the usual mantra that they probably do not realise how hurtful it is to some people. And why do I want to start a long polemic about fundamental issues of religious faith on a social media platform that is firmly located, at all costs, in the domain of free speech? So, knowing that this individual, who has many struggles as a transgendered person, I decided to be the bigger person and keep schtum.
However, a few months later when the same person posted another picture of a dog’s behind with text underneath it saying it looked like Jesus Christ, I felt I had to object and posted a single word back ‘Rude’. This did lead to a private dialogue whereby my friend stated that it was sent to him and he was passing it on. I suggested that if it had been about Mohamed or the Buddha he would have thought long and hard about causing any hurt or insult to anybody of that faith. My friend went on to say that I was absolutely right and that his mother who was a devout Portuguese Catholic would have been horrified by what he had done! Anyway, to cut a long story short several of our mutual friends who had contributed in that post now have a strong understanding of my how important my faith is to me and are being more discerning and more discriminating about what they send to all and sundry. I felt it important that they saw me as a person of faith. A post script to this incident is that all concerned were from the lgbtq community.
Last summer the Indian cricket team were being roundly thrashed by England team. I had been following the games closely on radio and the papers. I also followed a blog in the Guardian newspaper and decided to comment on some of the jingoistic comments about the superiority of the English team in terms of playing skills and in particular morals. Well that was just a red rag to this Taurean! Again, cutting to the chase I was accused of being racist for stating that Andy Flower, the Zimbabwean English coach, was not black (he is a white Zimbabwean). The accusation of being called racist really did make me think a lot about the whole idea of the ‘other’ and if it is at all possible to arrive at a place where we can all be seen and treated as ‘us’. One of the comments made on the blog was that non English fans often resort to rioting when things do not go their way and that that was a such un-English thing.
Well we all know, too painfully, about the summer riots which happened in our cities, and not for the first time. Without going into too much detail, I am really challenged by the trigger for the riots, that of the shooting of Mark Duggan. A very close friend of mine is in a relationship with a member of the Operation Trident Force who is involved in the shooting incident. Suffice to say that my friend (out of a sense of loyalty and trust in her partner) believed the set of circumstances that her partner and the police were putting out to the public. The ensuing riots were shocking and saddening. There were glimmers of hope and humanity to be found in the likes of Pauline Pearce in Hackney who stood up to the rioters, Tariq Jahan in Birmingham whose son died defending his community and did not seek retribution but pleaded for calm and peace, and Richard Mannington Bowes in Ealing who died trying to stop the rioters from burning the local shops.
Whilst a whole lot of soul searching was under way, there was also a lot of incredibly right wing and extremist views being spewed out in the press, social media and amongst individuals. I was put to me that I did not really care about the victims of the riots as I was not born here, and so by some weird sort of association, I could not possibly care about the victims who by the way came from all communities and cultures. Again, the idea of the perceived ‘other’ is seen as a problem.
As part of the lgbtq community we can take up the place of the ‘other’ or we can step up to the plate and openly state that we are part of the fabric and diversity of our immediate and wider communities. We are all challenged by the current statements made by our bishops about same sex marriages. As much as we all strive to be accepted and to be treated as equals, will we also be able to afford the compassion and respect for those whom we perceive as the other. Can we achieve the idea of inclusivity and equality in our hearts and minds, something that the Government is trying to introduce as a law but that our Church’s hierarchy is finding so hard to accept. That simplistic notion of pointing the finger at someone just means that we have three fingers pointing back at us. Can we be the ordinary people of the Exuberant Church that is us, which Barbara Glasson writes about in her book? Let’s not be the victims here. Let us show the way. Let us embrace life and love with all of our hearts. In the words of Barack Obama………..Yes we can!