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Loving the new extensions

21 December 2012

THE most interesting piece on a serious topic this week was by Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, in The Guardian, against gay marriage.

"Tolerance means, literally, to engage with other people who are different. It implies an attention to the particularity of the other person, a savouring of how he or she is unlike me, in their faith, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation.

"A society that flees difference and pretends we are all just the same may have outlawed intolerance in one form, and yet instituted it in other ways. It says, 'We shall tolerate you as long as you pretend to be just like us.'. . .

"Religious conviction, if it impinges on the public sphere, is viewed with a mixture of fear and derision. And so it is both true that modern Britain is a model of multiculturalism, and also that we drift around in a fog of mutual ignorance."

This is interesting because it is something that only Radcliffe among prominent religious leaders can say in the expectation - however faint - that he will be listened to. So many of the opponents of gay marriage transparently don't believe in what he calls the equal dignity of gay people.

The Kampala Daily Monitor, for example, reports that the Most Revd Stanley Ntagli, the new Primate of the Church of Uganda, at his enthronement on Sunday, "pledged to work towards reviving believers' commitment to God as a way of helping the country fight the rampant evils such as defilement, homosexuality, child sacrifice, and domestic violence".

God knows what is meant by "defilement" in this quote, but the bundling of homosexuality with child sacrifice and even domestic violence would finish the career of anyone in public life here. That is why I am not a cultural relativist. There is a genuine clash here of views over purity which cannot, so far as I can see, be the subject of a compromise.

And the Church of England is compromised in the public mind by the huge institutional efforts that it makes to stay in communion with Churches such as that in Uganda. Let's not forget that the Rt Revd Sandy Millar was ordained as a bishop there when he retired from Holy Trinity, Brompton. So the C of E cannot make a case against gay marriage without sounding bigoted.

THE Muslim Council of Britain, meanwhile, has grabbed the opportunity for self-importance, and demanded that it, too, should have legal protection for its stance against gay marriage. This ought to be an opportunity for the Church of England to look a great deal more enlightened, but I can almost guarantee that it will be muffed.

ON A late (and unheated) commuter train out of Liverpool Street, I picked up a discarded copy of Star magazine. There was an interview with Chantelle Houghton, who became a sleb (i.e. someone who appears regularly on cable television) after she won an episode of Celebrity Big Brother, even though her only expertise was being a lookalike for another sleb.

She later married, or at least had a child with, one of the original's discards, with whom she has since split because of his sexual habits: "A lot of people think cross-dressing is just wearing a skirt and dancing around singing 'I'm every woman.' But what Alex actually does is a lot darker."

The interviewer gets to the point: "We're loving the new extensions. Is your new look helping you move on?"

"Definitely. New hair, new me! [laughs] I feel a bit more like myself. I've had extensions for years but [this brand]are the best by far. All the celebrities are having them. Katie [Price] has got them. I'm back to me again!"

I'm not sure that a society where you're supposed to improve your character by changing your brand of false hair is really to be trusted with any moral decisions at all.

BUT the oddest piece of post-Christianity came from the Daily Mail, which recorded how the crowd at a darts tournament turned against a hippyish Australian spectator.

"A darts fan was kicked out of a live televised final after the 4500-strong crowd interrupted play by taunting him - because he looks like Jesus. Bearded Nathan Grindal was enjoying the clash between Phil Taylor and Kim Huybrechts when some of the audience spotted his likeness to the son of God.

"Chants of 'Jesus' quickly spread through the rowdy crowd packed into Butlins at Minehead, Somerset. The labourer, of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, was close to tears as six bouncers removed him from the Cash Converters Players' Championship which was being shown on ITV4.

"As he left a chant of 'Stand up if you love Jesus' broke out with many of the boozed-up crowd getting to their feet."

He should have worn a different wig.


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