“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Monday, 20 February 2017

Words and Meanings

On Saturday I attended a wonderful Inter-Faith Peace Blessing in Birmingham. There were well over a hundred people there, from most of the many faith communities in Birmingham, and it was a joy to be in the same space as so many people from different faith traditions.

The theme of the occasion was 'One Family Under God', and I had understood this to mean that members of all faith traditions could join together in worshipping God, respecting one another's traditions and beliefs.

However, it turned out that it was more a celebration of the family as the place where you learn true morals and values - integrity, peace, responsibility, honesty, and so on. Now I would be the first to agree that the family unit is incredibly important in our society, as the source of the moral and ethical teachings which help us all to become responsible, tolerant members of our multi-faith society. Several of the speakers testified very movingly about the importance of their families of origin. Which was lovely.

But, as the afternoon progressed, it became clear that the families which were being held up as sacred and important were exclusively heterosexual, with the parents being one man and one woman. Both I and the Methodist minister I was sitting next to found the reiterated emphasis on this quite uneasy. We talked about it afterwards, and felt that queerness, in all its diversity, was the 'elephant in the room'. But I'm sure we were in the minority.

In April 2015, David Spiegelhalter had an article in The Guardian, in which he concluded that "my judgment would be that roughly one in 80 adults under 75 would consider themselves gay/lesbian and one in 80 bisexual, but with the balance towards bisexual in women. That works out to a total of nearly 1.2 million – the population of Birmingham."

This is a not-inconsiderable proportion of the population, to be so disregarded. As a straight ally, I found this to be a matter for concern, and it rather spoiled what would otherwise have been a warm and lovely occasion.

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