For the Love of God

For the Love of God

Come Christmas time, the patients at the surgery where Liam earns an honest crust are a generous lot. Gifts of biscuits, sweets, chocolates and the odd bottle of booze flood in. Liam comes home laden with festive fancies. We keep a few and donate the rest to St Stephen’s Church. It’s an ancient pile, founded over 900 years ago and now mostly dating from the sixteenth century. The roots might be old but the approach of the dedicated team of clerics and laypeople is bang up-to-date. Community engagement and outreach are the services of the day. Much of the nave is given over to a café which…

‘… provides an open place for people to belong, whether customers, volunteers or those experiencing tough times… the café is a place of welcome, refreshment and peace.’

St Stephens Church

It’s a Heaven-sent distraction from the hubbub outside and operates a ‘pay what you can’ policy where punters can pay the suggested price, more, less or nothing at all. The church also runs a seasonal food bank for those in need. When we dropped off the Quality Street, Fox’s luxury selection and Ferrero Rocher, I apologised for only bringing sweets and biscuits. A lady with a kindly face replied…

‘Everyone deserves something nice for Christmas, don’t they?’

It was a humbling experience. I’m not religious in the slightest but if this is what the love of God means, then long may it continue.

The Fantabulosa Fairy

Recently, apprentice clerics at an Anglican theological college in Cambridge were given permission to hold a service to commemorate LGBT history month. The Church of England still gets its collective cassock in a twist about sexuality, particularly in matters carnal and marital, so a step in the right direction you might think. Allegedly the cheeky ordinands went a tad too far for some when they held the service in Polari, a slang language of mixed origins once used in Britain by sinners on the social margins – actors (when acting was considered little better than whoring), circus types, villains, ladies of the night, and up to the seventies, gay people.

So, instead of…

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The congregation got…

Fabeness be to the Auntie, and to the Homie Chavvie, and to the Fantabulosa Fairy.

The college principal ‘hugely regretted’ the use of an unauthorised liturgy. In other words he threw a queeny fit. Personally, I think it’s much ado about nothing. It wasn’t a public service and, since the Bible has been translated many, many times down the ages from the Hebrew and Greek texts, who’s to say the Polari version is any less legitimate? A fairy tale is a fairly tale whatever language it’s in.


Polari died out when times became less buttoned-up but a few words have entered into modern parlance – naff and camp among them. It has a delicious un-PC vocabulary of wonderfully ripe terms. Here’s a few…

Basket (a man’s bulge through his clothes); bibi (bisexual); bona (good); bona nochy (a good night); bungery (pub); buvare (a drink); camp (effeminate); carts (willy); chicken (young man); cottage (a public convenience used for jollies); dilly boy (rent boy); dish (bum); eek (face); handbag (money); jubes (breasts); lallies (legs); mince (walk); naff (nasty); national handbag (welfare benefits); omi (man) omi-palone (camp queen); plate (oral sex); palone (woman); palone-omi (lesbian); remould (sex change); riah (hair) rough trade (working class sex); slap (makeup); todd (alone); tootsie trade (sex between two passive partners); trade (sex); troll (to walk about looking for sex): varda (see).

Varda the godly chickens!

Beating the Bishop

mitreThe Church of England continues to get its collective cassock in a twirl attempting to respond to the social changes beating down the cathedral door. The result is a dog’s breakfast of compromise and fudge that appears to please nobody. Female vicars are not allowed to be bishops but gay male priests can be if they promise to keep the Devil in their drawers, even those in a civil partnerships. God knows what they’ll say when marriage equality is introduced (and it will be). How is this to be monitored? Spy cameras in the boudoir of the bishop’s palace? Lie detectors at the altar? Early-morning electrodes for the lazy lob? The Old Testament evangelicals are spitting fire and brimstone, the traditionalists are defecting to the holier-than-thou papists and the lame liberals are tut-tutting all the way to the gay pub. The Church’s continuing self-flagellation over rumpy-bumpy between consenting males is laughable and yet the subject of girl-on-girl goings on is strangely absent from the debate. Lesbianism, it seems, doesn’t exist in Canon Law. You’d think that a church established out of political expediency would be more politically astute in these more egalitarian times. Surely they must know that few people care that much anymore?

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Marriage Equality – Much I Do About Nothing

Marriage equality for same sex couples is a hot topic in the States and many other parts of Christendom right now. As the pendulum of liberal public opinion swings towards reform, the religious reactionaries advance ever more bizarre notions for opposing the right of consenting adults to choose whom they wish to marry. It’s in the Land of the Free where the debate (if debate is the word) is at its most venal. An unholy axis is scaring the horses and the old folk with talk of a disintegrating society and the fall of America. The do as I say and not as I do Catholic Church is wielding its considerable power and marshalling its congregation; right-wing American politicians seeking the highest office in the land talk of paganism and a vomiting God; and crazy pastors across the Bible belt warn of Old Testament fire and brimstone and the End of Days. These strange bedfellows all agree that it’s the thin end of the satanic wedge. What next? Pet-wedding perverts? Marriage is between one man and one woman, they say, sanctified by God for the purposes of procreation. How do they know? Because it says so in the Bible, stupid. Actually, the Bible says a lot about marriage – about forced wedlock, polygamy and concubines. It supports all of them. Bible-bashers have selective memories.

Rather than take a trip on the merry-go-round of fables and myths, it might be more illuminating to take a look at history and absorb some hard facts. Until relatively recently, marriage was primarily a property contract. In most societies, girls were the chattels of their fathers; wedlock simply transferred ownership from father to husband. There’s a clue in the word ‘lock’. Often, the contract was transacted within the extended family in order to consolidate assets or preserve clan cohesion. It was generally best to keep it within the family. At the top of the social heap, marriage was a political device to forge alliances, strengthen authority and maintain dynastic power. The rich would oil the marital wheels with generous dowries and the poor might secure a slave bride through war. Women were booty. Like goats. The consent of the unfortunate (and often underage) girl was not required. The wife could get a raw deal; the goats might be treated better. If a woman failed in her primary role to provide male progeny, she could be replaced, supplemented or worse. None of this sounds particularly honourable or pious to me. Nor has this depressing state of marital affairs been consigned to the history books. It’s alive and thriving in many primitive corners of the modern world.

The spawning argument hardly holds water either. It’s an obvious biological fact that marriage is not required to have children. People don’t suddenly become fertile because they’ve been blessed by the shaman. Breeding is like falling off a log and we’ve been at it like proverbial rabbits since our distant ancestors crawled out of the primordial soup at the dawn of time. When Fred Flintstone first clubbed Wilma over the head and dragged her by the hair into his cave to make Pebbles, he didn’t need a holier-than-thou clergyman to stick his oar in.

Just recently, on my side of the pond, a top dog collar in the Church of England jumped on the wedding bandwagon. The Archbishop of York claims that the democratically elected Parliament of Britain has no right to change the definition of marriage. I think His Grace will find that the British Parliament has the right to do as it pleases. England got rid of meddling priests when they pissed off Henry the Eighth. Hell hath no fury like a tyrant scorned. Despite what the Archbishop may think, the meaning and interpretation of abstract concepts often evolve over time through intellectual inquisition and discourse. There was a time when the Church taught us with absolute God-given certainty that the Earth was flat and sat at the centre of the Universe. Woe betide anyone who disagreed. Stoke the bonfire and burn the heretics, they used to say. Fortunately, we now know differently. We discover and we evolve. Our religious establishments would do better to concentrate their energies on addressing the problem of empty pews and unheard sermons. Ironically, the Church of England would find it far more difficult to operate without the growing number of gay vicars in its ranks.

For an unreconstructed liberal and an unabashed secularist like me, this is a fundamental equalities issue. It’s also a love thing; and love, above all other things, is at the core of the Christian message, is it not? As far as I’m aware, no religious organisation will be forced to conduct religious ceremonies for same sex couples if they object. So, let’s just calm down and grow up.

Read all about Jack and Liam‘s life in a Muslim country