A woman approached me at Borough tube yesterday. As she walked towards me I was thinking what a lovely scarf she was wearing and wondering if it was hand-knitted. The nearer she got, the more I realised she was a proselytising Christian. She had that glazed-look which I’ve come to associate with people who stand on street corners promoting the word of Christ. And sure enough, she handed me a small, square piece of paper and told me that Jesus loved me. “Oh, no” I said, as politely as possible, “please don’t hand me one of them.” The paper felt dirty in my hand. I tried to hand it back, but she wouldn’t take it, so I threw it on the floor. There followed a fairly unpleasant scene which involved her informing me that I was a sinner, which made me see red: “I don’t think it’s your place to call a stranger a sinner. You shouldn’t be doing this. The fairy tales you believe in are entirely your own choice, but it’s not for you to tell me how to live my life. I’m a gay man...” “that explains it” she said. So I shouted at her and she started shouting back in a strange high-pitched voice. I didn’t like it at all.
I genuinely think any attempt to convert someone to religion should be viewed as grooming. Worship whichever deity you feel like worshiping but it is wholly inappropriate to approach a stranger in a public place. Time and time again it’s vulnerable people who are attracted to religion, pulled in by unscrupulous people who then turn lives upside down by making moral judgements about lifestyles. I have no idea why anyone would consider the practices of certain religious people any more appropriate than abusers. Yes, to me, these street preachers are simply irritating and tragic, but to someone with mental health issues, depression, or those who are grieving or in trouble, they can be deeply dangerous and I personally believe we need laws to stop them.
Yes, the majority of Christians across the world are good, kind, loving people, but religion is also twisted and used as an excuse for persecution and highly dubious behaviour on many levels from war-mongering to subtle mind games. I am convinced, for example, that Tony Blair’s religious conviction played a part in the questionable decisions he made to take action in the Middle East. I also believe it’s highly dangerous that Theresa May prays to God for answers to our country’s troubles.
When I was a teenager coming to terms with my sexuality, a very close friend of mind told me, just after I’d had a car accident and turned to her for emotional support, that she was “really pleased I didn’t die” because she “wouldn’t have been able to deal with the fact that I’d gone to hell.” Now if that statement was in line with the teachings of Christ, I’ll find a bible and eat it! Using hell as a threat is nothing but abuse.
By chance, I came home and watched a programme about Roman Britain from the air. An expert was talking about Roman religious worship and the fascinating number of deities and rituals associated with that ancient people. At the end of the segment, the presenter, Christine Bleakley, felt the need to say, “I’m not keen on Roman religion. It sounds a bit like black magic to me.” And I thought, “sod you! I’m watching this programme to learn about the Romans. I don’t need your modern day religious judgements.” Can you imagine if the continuity announcer after Songs of Praise said “I don’t like these God botherers. That church feels like a cult?”
Why is it that we feel we can openly condemn paganism, ufology or Wicca whilst turning a blind eye to the horrors associated with organised religion? Because God is Love? Pull the other one!