Sunday, January 12, 2014

Are you born gay?

re tweeted a funny the other day; ‘Thomas Hitzelberger has bravely announced that he once played for West Ham’ this of course a play on the fact that the ex Hammer announced that he is gay.

This is obviously a good sign that progress has been made among the football playing fraternity and we are a long way from the homophobic treatment of Graeme La Saux who was targeted simply because he was different (supposedly because of the fact that he read the broadsheets) but its notable that Hitzelberger has made this announcement after he has retired from the game.

'But there's no boobs in the Times?
I’ve little truck with footballers overall, believing that they’re not living in the real world and an untouchable attitude is bound to lead to bouts of moronic immature behaviour, but that’s a battle for someone else to fight. Mine’s a bit closer to home: I have an issue with many Christians attitude to homosexuals and I know I will get in trouble for saying what I feel.

Let me start by recommending an absolutely excellent book called ‘Maggie & Me’ by Damian Barr.

Mr Barr is a successful journalist and playwright and this is his excellent memoir. With the death of Maggie Thatcher I felt a desire to read a book which related to a period which was such a pivotal time in my formative years. I didn’t want to read a biography (see previous blogs on my thoughts on them) and picking this book up I wasn’t even too sure if it was fiction or non fiction. Sadly, because of the tough background Barr grew up in, I wish it had been fiction: Abusive step fathers, neglectful mothers and petty criminal uncles all create the ingredients for dysfunction.

It was a time when Maggie fought the miners and closed down the Ravenscraig Steelworks where Barrs father worked. It was the end of Industrial Britain and back then as an arrogant 18 year old southerner working in the city I had little sympathy with any of them. Following a protest march to Downing Street which brought thousands of striking miners and their supporters down to the smoke, I somehow managed to escape intact having given my views to a group of miners having a pint at the Euston Tavern before getting their train back north.

Perhaps it would have done me good if they had duffed me up!

Anyway, whether intended or not, whilst an evocative and uplifting read, it is Barrs struggle and realisation of his sexuality which so impressed on me. I do not believe this was written as a propaganda message that you are born gay, but this frank and penetrating address of this subject lead me to be convinced that Barr was born gay.

So that probably will make me be ostracised by some Christians out there. Those that believe it’s a lifestyle choice or an illness that can be cured. I’m sorry but I just don’t buy that.

Again Barrs honesty regarding his ‘Christian walk’ is also disarming and ultimately despondent in that he rejects Jesus because He doesn’t cure him of his affliction. Patently the ‘Christian teaching’ which Barr was exposed to was analogous to the above view.

I’ve mentioned before that my hero in Christian circles is a guy called Tony Campolo, and he runs an organisation called Red Letter Christians. Here’s an interesting article which is related to this subject and is well worth any Christian having a read.

Would a friend or relative find it easy to confide in us if we are believers? Or would they too be afraid? It got me thinking if there were any churches with experiences of welcoming gays into their church. I mean, I’m pretty sure churches are full of adulterers, porn addicts and all round generally lusty individuals but we understand that. We can empathise if not agree and so that’s ok and we’re all under the banner of grace. But are gays in our eyes? Because that’s something we can’t comprehend. And I guess the point is that there’s a danger that we extend grace only to those sins which we can understand. 

Imagine living next door to this lot!

I don’t get being gay. I understand heterosexuality and my love of the female form has got me in plenty of trouble over the years, but I’m not going to treat an issue I don’t understand with the contempt and hate or fear that I do see in many believers.

I remember going to a question and answer session of a very well known Christian pastor who was asked the question ‘what do you see as the biggest threat to the church today?’ to which he replied ‘Homosexuality’

WTF!! Did I hear him correctly? (Admittedly this was at a time when Peter Tatchell was making mischief by ‘outing’ prominent church figures) but this a bigger issue than Muslims? Paedophile priests? Cultural  Relevance? Dawkins?

The pastor in question finally catches up with Tatchell

I’m not scared of gays, or opposed to them, or angry with them or hate them; but I am all these when it comes to people trafficking, inequality of women, poverty, starvation, oppressive regimes, greed, child abuse, religious sectarianism, civil war, genocide, hate crimes etc, all of which happen in this world and are issues that Christians should be concerned about.

DR, but it could be anywhere. 
So, in future I will only debate about  gayness being an issue with a Christian if that Christian has a passion to alleviate something from the list above!   And is doing something about it!!

An opportunity to do something about it!

So, without the debate about the morality of being GLBT, can we at least  agree that there are more important things to be righteously angry about and set about changing them? I think Christians look a whole lot more attractive when they fight injustice but inclusively love and embrace their fellow humans. 

PS - Before anyone says it, I acknowledge there are a great many loving Christians out there who are nothing like the provocative images which I have displayed. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Books I read in 2013

Did YOU write that Wayne?

Each year I enjoy looking back at all the books that I have read. I’ve kept lists for the last three years and the previous 2 years I have read 19 and 24 respectively and I am back up to 24 this year albeit I feel a bit of a fraud as one is a play, one's a novella and four are John Grishams!

Having said that I’m three quarters through my 25th book and I haven’t counted that.

What do I note this year?

Only one bio (although the 25th is Damian Barrs bio and it’s a blast!) As a rule I hate bios, and in particular those of sportsmen who haven’t done anything in their 22 years on this planet other than kick or throw or hit a ball well. Pah!

If you go on holiday, you have to take a Grisham. The guy just churns them out and they are all eminently readable and there will doubtless be some more in my 2014 list.

Short on religious books. Only two. Am I backsliding or is it that there's a high level of regurgitation in this genre?

Still a trusty read if you're interested. 

I strive to be well read but some of the classics are just classically pants! How much of my life was lost reading either Joseph Conrad or certain DH Lawrences? Having said that, Hardys and Dickens, and yes, some Lawrences are enjoyable and allow me a certain vanity that I’m ‘well read’ However there’s allowing your eyes to run over the words and for these words to be then repeated in your head but its another thing to necessarily know what's going on! I once managed to read Tess of the D’urbervilles without realising she had a baby!!

So here are my 2013 books and a comment on each;

Going to Sea on a sieve by Danny Baker

Great read but gone off him as a person since I started following him on Twitter. He’s a bit of an arrogant drunk Millwall twit. Oh, and by the way, does anybody know where my copy’s gone?

Killer in the rain by Raymond Chandler

 Still the most atmospheric crime writer of our time in my narrow opinion.

Everyday Church by Tim Chester

My pastor raved about it. My sister borrowed it. I thought it would have made a good pamphlet.

Life of Pi by Yan Martel

If you see the film first you don’t like the book and if you read the book first your disappointed by the film. Not so in this case, both are excellent!

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

Pure hell. I’m glad you died penniless Conrad, you deserved to!

The Appeal by John Grisham

Actually struck a chord. Big conglomerate versus the little guy.

The Constant Gardener by John LaCarre

Coincidence!! Big conglomerate versus the little guy. Just a little bit more complex.

Some say he looks like me!

The Trespasser by DH Lawrence

OK you sexually repressed apology of a man. You got this one spot on. This dark tale of a couple who are having an affair is as much an enjoyable read by what is implied than what is actually written, but he captures the mood of his time so well.

Probably best not to read this if your planning on having an illicit sojourn with someone who isn’t your partner!

The Utter relief of Holiness by John Eldredge

Here we have the problem of following up with something after a hit record or novel. In ‘Wild at Heart’ Eldredge wrote the Christian book which had most effect on me as a Christian. Having re written it again a few times (under different titles) and even getting his wife to write her version, he’s flogged that horse seriously bare and so now has moved subject matter.

Sorry John, but it just didn’t impact me.

If you're going to read an Eldredge, go for this one.

Coming up for air by George Orwell

If you fish, and if you hanker back to the good old days, you will love this book. I intend to read 'The Clergymans daughter' and 'Keep the Aspidistra flying' in 2014. He’s much more than 1984 and Animal farm.

Someone took reading 1984 a little too far methinks! This is a real tattoo on a woman and its called '2084,a modern look at George Orwells classic'

How novels work by John Mullen

I bought this in the best book shop in the whole world! If ever you go to Ely, pop in to Topping & Co, drink green tea, sit by the window and read a chapter of any book you pick off the shelf. A book lovers paradise. It was pure pretence buying a book like this which I hoped would help me in the construction of a novel I wish to write, however all it did was intimidate me and make me feel inadequate. (Having said that, so did the 2 pages of Fifty shades of Grey I read!!)

Dear God, please tell me they're not making a film of it!!

The Sacred diary of Adrian Plass aged 37 International speaker

Sort of a religious book, and best appreciated if you knock around in Christian circles. If you’ve ever received one of those Christmas round-robin letters from the perfect Christian family you’ll side split at the one he receives. A very funny book!

'Dear friends, we write to you at this festive time to update you on  the progress of our three lovely daughters, Faith, Hope & Chastity and of our beloved son Zedekia....'

Jude the obscure by Thomas Hardy

Hardy doesn't get many wrong. A good exploration of the theme of marriage, education, class and of course religion. If you have never read a Hardy before, Id probably recommend something like The Mayor of Casterbridge before this, but it’s not a heavy read at all and the plot moves quickly enough to keep your interest.

Lost for words by John Humphreys

The worry is that I can see myself turning into Humphries. He’s the grumpy old man who yearns for a return to the better past when we correctly used the English language. He is the ultimate pedant who lives in fear of ever using a split infinitive! Whilst I’m no pedant, I’m certainly becoming more grumpy!

Whiskey Galore by Compton Mackenzie

A fun romp about a little Scottish island that runs out of whiskey before a ship full of the stuff runs aground. Not an easy read as all the dialogue is written phonetically in a strong highland accent.

The importance of being earnest by Oscar Wilde

I started to read this as I was so struck by the likeness of the photo on the back to Stephen Fry. I cant think what he has in common with Oscar Wilde…?

See what i mean!

It will take you about an hour and its good enough that if a local village playhouse put it on, id go!

The last juror by John Grisham

It’s a Grisham, what more is there to say!

Edge of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Why, why, why? Utter, utter shyte!

The Racketeer by John Grisham

I was on holiday in Cyprus. I needed something to read whilst keeping an eye on my mates two kids. Something that didn’t require too much thought. At the airport, ah, the latest Grisham!

The High Window  by Raymond Chandler

Still the best crime writer. I wish I smoked and drank bourbon when I read him.

A time to kill by John Grisham

Ok, ok, its getting a little repetitive, I know, but I was in Dominican Republic and I was at the airport….etc etc

Saturday by Ian McEwan

This guy is a seriously talented writer,  if not a little anal in his research and descriptions. (e.g. four pages describing a squash game played by the hero) However, his plots are typically gripping, his observations sharp and I found this was a book I couldn't put down. I've read a few other McEwans including ‘On Chesil Beach’ and ‘Everlasting love’ and I’ve yet to be disappointed.

His attention to detail can become a little tedious if the subject matter is not to your interest but typically, if he has drawn you in, you find yourself not minding having just read 5 pages explaining a complex surgical operation as is the case in this book.

Twilight in Italy by DH Lawrence
Women in love by DH Lawrence

I will put these two books together. How to end the year on a low. Travel writing has never been my thing anyway, so his views of some quite obscure parts of Italy left me numb. However, in some mad pique, I decided to punish myself by picking up another Lawrence.

I will cause outrage to any academic but I’m sorry but this book is just awful. The dialogue is so self indulgent. None of the four characters were remotely attractive and I actually had some sympathy with Gerald towards the end when he tries to kill Gudrum.

Actually, I tell a lie. Gudrum befriends a german artist called Loerke who displays the talent of really understanding and empathising with woman. This is his attraction to the fairer sex even though he has nothing material which he can offer them in the same way that Gerald the industrialist can. I imagine this is something that all men crave albeit suppressed and secretly.

No, give this a miss. It is classic sexually suppressed Lawrence. Watch Oliver Reid in the movie version instead, infamous for the first time male genitalia were shown on film. Ironically, the slang for said organs is a good summation for my view of this book!

So that was 2013! My love of reading continues and there’s plenty out there on my list of reads. Tell me if you have any good suggestions, or alternatively, feel free to share your contrary views on any of the books I've commented on.