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A sense of possibility

11 August 2017


Hopeful: in Queer Britain? (BBC3, BBC1, Thursday of last week), Riyadh Khalaf explored the relationship between LGBT people and faith communities

Hopeful: in Queer Britain? (BBC3, BBC1, Thursday of last week), Riyadh Khalaf explored the relationship between LGBT people and faith communities

IT WAS an unexpected moment of shame. My admiration of the Revd Steve Chalke’s Oasis Church, Waterloo, and its willingness to affirm God’s love for all by setting up a Naming Ceremony to celebrate Elijah’s transition from being Ellie was undercut by my irritation that there was no recognition of the fact that some of the local branches of the Established Church are equally happy to offer such paraliturgies.

But the enjoyment of my right­eous indignation was cut short by the recollection that, when our own parish had done that very thing, the person concerned had asked me whether I would permit discreet TV filming, and I had said, no: it would not be appropriate to advertise such a departure from the norms of Common Worship, and, had I got round to asking him, the likely disapprobation of the Ordin­ary.

More courage on my part would probably have meant that Queer Britain: Does God hate queers? (BBC3 and BBC1, Thursday of last week) would have offered up to the nation’s ad­­mira­tion and, far more im­port­antly, to the LGBT com­munity’s sense of the pos­sib­ility, despite every­thing, of the Church’s accept­ance and love, St Mary Abbots, Kensington. Elijah’s wel­come and deep faith as a support in his journey stood out.

Far more common was Josh’s story — still so precarious that his surname had to be pixellated — of being dis-fellowshipped by the Jehovah’s Witnesses once his homo­sexuality was discovered. Even more upsetting was his parents’ strict following of their “church”, and in­­sist­ing that all communica­tion be­­­tween them must cease until he turned back from the way of sin.

Presenter Riyadh Khalaf could have made it a stronger programme, but, all in all, this was positive and hopeful TV.

Hyper Evolution: The rise of the robots (BBC4, Wednesdays) raised theological considerations aplenty. Presented by Professor Daniella George (pro robots) and the bio­logist Dr Ben Garrod (robo-sceptic), it approached its subject dual­istically. What most strongly caught my attention was the sloppy misuse of vitally important concepts — starting with evolution itself.

In a few decades, robots have evolved out of all recognition. But what Darwin and his successors have shown us is how organisms have evolved by their own internal, autonomous transformation; robots have changed because their de­­signers and builders have had better ideas and materials: it’s an external process.

It implies a concept of Divine creation modelled on the technician constantly improving the previous model; but without any liberty. The machines are amazing and alarming in their abilities and functioning. How curious that they all look more-or-less humanoid and that they are all referred to as “him” or “her”, never as “it”.

Is this evidence of our being about to create new life forms? Or is it simply the way in which all children endow their inanimate toys with gendered life?

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