*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

TV review: Stephen Fry: Willem and Frieda — Defying the Nazis, The Mormons are Coming, and Bronson: Fit to be free?

10 March 2023

Channel 4

Stephen Fry: Willem and Frieda — Defying the Nazis (Channel 4, Thursday of last week) examined the story of Willem Arondeus and Frieda Belinfante

Stephen Fry: Willem and Frieda — Defying the Nazis (Channel 4, Thursday of last week) examined the story of Willem Arondeus and Frieda Belinfant...

“TELL the world that homosexuals are not cowards.” In Stephen Fry: Willem and Frieda — Defying the Nazis (Channel 4, Thursday of last week), Willem Arondeus’s final message before his execution by the German occupiers of the Netherlands was amply vindicated by his inspiring life story — that of an artist who, because of his sexuality, which he never hid, was never fully accepted by the Establishment.

The Nazis’ murderous anti-Semitism stirred him, although not Jewish, to extraordinary self-sacrifice. Sending his long-term partner away to safety, he strove to save as many Jews as possible. He formed, with Frieda Belinfante — a leading public figure, the principal cellist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra and also openly gay — a resistance cell of artists. They manufactured fake identity cards to hide Jews’ identity and save them from deportation.

Paradoxically, this mortally dangerous mission transformed Arondeus into a charismatic leader. Betrayed after the group’s destruction of the municipal record office, he was courageously defiant before the judge; awaiting execution, he and 11 companions laughed and sang. Shamefully, after the war, their heroism was — on account of their open homosexuality — airbrushed out of the Netherlands’ celebration of wartime resistance. Only recently, with the creation of Amsterdam’s pink triangle Homomonument, has their story been told. I pray that such truths will shake the convictions of those in our own Church who continue to deny equal access to the sacraments to gay sisters and brothers.

An equality even further from achievement was the subject of The Mormons Are Coming (BBC2, Tuesday of last week). The Chorley Centre — Chorley is home to Europe’s highest concentration of Mormons — trains 800 18- to 25-year-olds annually for a two-year missionary tour. The training looks good (“Don’t be robots: be yourselves”), and the young people are all, of course, lovely — open, friendly, and courageous. They are willing, in pairs or threes, to face the uncaring crowds on British streets and knock on unwelcoming British doors, conspicuously separate from the masses in their suits, white shirts and ties, or extremely sober dresses.

Nowadays, they also employ social media, each Elder or Sister (note the hierarchical gender difference) having a daily target of 50 messages to people whom they have encountered: a rate of follow-up somewhat in excess, I suspect, of most Anglican clergy. But their joyful faith is riven with dark chasms — the stern and absolute moral code, especially around gender and sex, the pressure to accept the doctrine of eternal marriage — which leading some to apostasy. This was far more about works than about grace, it seemed to me.

Bronson: Fit to be free? (Channel 4, Monday and Tuesday of last week) asked whether “Britain’s most violent prisoner” had been sufficiently transformed to be paroled after 48 years in custody. The most shocking revelation was the absolute symbiosis between this attention-seeker and the tabloid press, desperate to feature every excess that he loved to provide, each constantly raising the stakes, all truth obscured and trampled underfoot.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available

 

Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available

 

SAVE THE DATE

Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website

 

Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)