“I REALLY do enjoy celibacy!” The mug bearing this self-defeating protestation apparently belongs to a member of Living Out, an organisation that promotes sexual abstinence amongst same-sex-attracted Christians. The joke came courtesy of its ministry director, Ed Shaw, whose contribution to Archive on 4: God Knows I’m Gay (Radio 4, Saturday) was the most stimulating episode in a programme in danger of buckling under its own earnestness.
The archive in question was a series of tapes made by the Revd Dr Joel Love, who was training for ordination. At that time, Dr Love was in a homosexual relationship; and, as he listened to his younger self struggle with the everyday deception, we were reminded of the history of gay marriage and its status in the Church of England, with insights from other witnesses, such as the Revd Sarah Jones, the Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Cherry Vann, and the Revd Jeremy Pemberton.
To the credit both of producer and participants, this was not an anthology of stories about victimhood; for, notwithstanding the trauma and alienation that all must have endured, each of the contributors declared themselves secure in their faith. Indeed, it was this element in their lives which was consistent, as contrasted with the continually changing political and cultural attitudes of government and ecclesiastical institutions. And the community in which they wish to pursue that faith remains the Church of England.
It was a shame, therefore, that other perspectives were included so late in the show. The conversation between Dr Love and Mr Shaw was conducted with the utmost decorum, and Dr Love provided a courteous commentary at the end: a model for the kind of engagement that is presumably intended by those promoting Living in Love and Faith.
Still, I got further with Archive on 4 than I did with An Artificially Intelligent Guide to Love (Radio 4, Saturday), a drama that also featured a central character who was gay, but who sought meaning in dialogues — not with flesh and blood, but with a computer.
The conceit is eye-catching enough: feed in questions to a language-prediction algorithm, and have Fiona Shaw voice the answers. But no amount of cleverness and Ms Shaw can save a production from lack of that most basic dramatic quality: pacing. Here, also, there was one perceptible joke: asked to comment on the notion of “a co-dependent relationship between two women”, the AI channelled its inner smutty schoolboy: “Breasts!” it repeated 286 times. Otherwise, the dreary dialogue should have been enough to force any self-respecting AI to unplug itself.
If you want well-paced drama, and have a few hours spare for a podcast box set, then you could do a lot worse than Fake Psychic, released this month by Radio 4, but which your reviewer has only just concluded. It is a slow burn, and hooked me somewhere in episode 3; but this story of Lamar Keene, a successful con man who revealed all, is fascinating stuff. Listen to the end for a redemptive ending and a surprising story of a prize tortoise.