Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Inasmuch as ye have done unto one of the least of these my brethren..."

If you were to read this, even from someone described as a veteren DUP councillor and a "staunch Christian", you’d be surprised:
Mr. Johnston is highly critical of Roman Catholicism: "It doesn’t matter what my church comes round to accept it’s what’s in the Bible and it tells you that God will give them up for their evil imaginations. I think Roman Catholicism is terrible, it’s wrong and it’s not me that condemns it, it’s the Bible. I would be disappointed if my children were like that, I wouldn’t turn my back on them but I wouldn’t tell them it was right because it’s not. I would rebuke them for that, I would tell them to move away from their evil ways. I hope I never have that to do. Roman Catholicism is obnoxious to our holy God and mixed marriages are very sad,"
Alright then, probably not that surprised there are those within the political Unionist Establishment who hold those views, more surprised that he’s come out of the closest, as it were, with them. In the Northern Ireland of 2010, it wouldn’t be acceptable to a large majority of the population and he or she would get hammered for expressing them, both in the MSM and online and rightly so.

But Bert Johnston did use those exact words about another minority- replace "Roman Catholicism" with "homosexuality", "mixed" with "gay" and you have verbatim what he said to Rodney Edwards of The Impartial Reporter this week. OK,you might argue those views are an integral part of his version of "Christianity" and that even bigotted oul culchie councillors are entitled to "freedom of speech". If so, have a read of this from Andrew Sullivan, probably the best blogger presently operating in the US and someone who happily describes himself a gay Christian:
I don't believe in hate crimes laws, but I passionately believe in prosecuting these kinds of attacks to the fullest extent of the law. I also want to ask, plead, and beg those who have sincere and principled arguments against, say, marriage equality or openly gay military service, to be mindful of the impact of their words.

I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of those on the other side of the debate are as horrified by these events as I am. I am not in any way saying otherwise, or in any way suggesting indirect responsibility for horrors such as these.

What I am saying is that in making these arguments, people need to take care to ensure that they also insist that gay people are always described as human beings, as worthy of respect and dignity as anyone else, that the case for keeping us out of core civil institutions must be made without inflammatory generalizations about gay people, generalizations that have an impact, especially on those only waiting for an excuse from authority to act, or those deeply confused and afraid of who they find themselves to be in adolescence.

For too long, gay people have been described by too many on the right as a threat to the family, society and decency. Those words have consequences. This is especially true of religious leaders. When even the Pope describes us as "intrinsically disordered" and directed to an "objective moral evil", when Republicans call us a threat to family life, when NOM runs ads of a "storm coming", I hope they understand what these words do to the psyches and souls of the young and impressionable, and to those who need a mere signal to take up arms and attack us.
And, as if to emphasise that last point, this from Belgrade, this very afternoon:
Serbian police have clashed with protesters trying to disrupt a Gay Pride parade in the capital, Belgrade.

Police used tear gas against the rioters, who threw petrol bombs and stones at armed officers and tried to break through a security cordon.

A garage attached to the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Party was briefly set on fire, and at least one shot was fired at the building.

At least 50 people were injured, most reported to be police officers.

A number of people were arrested.
This was the first Gay Pride parade in Serbia since a march in 2001 was broken up in violent clashes provoked by far-right extremists.

While the Gay Pride parade was moving though the city, several hundred protesters began chanting at those taking part as they tried to get close to the march.

"The hunt has begun," the AFP news agency reported them as saying. "Death to homosexuals."
Now, there is an enormous gulf between the likes of Bert Johnston and the kind of people who tortured those homosexuals in the Bronx and the fascist thugs petrol-bombing the Gay Pride parade today in Belgrade but what Sullivan said is also so true that it’s worth repeating a second time:
For too long, gay people have been described by too many on the right as a threat to the family, society and decency. Those words have consequences.


Anonymous said...

"Those words have consequences"

Now that you have got onto this subject, I would like to quote from the Daily Mail, writing about Ian Paisley (snr) at the time of his retirement.

"Many loyalist paramilitaries have said they would never have become involved in violence had they not been inspired by the inflammatory rhetoric of Ian Paisley to counter the twin enemies of Rome and the Republic of Ireland."

That is why I find it absolutely sickening that so many revisionist journalists have dubbed him as a man of peace. I also suggest that Paisley knew very well what the consequences of his inflamatory words would be at the time he said them.

He has blood on his hands

tony said...

your analogy dosn't work. It is still the norm for Unionists to speak like this about Catholics. Sure, some of them are a whole lot more circumspect that they once were.............but hey ho.

O'Neill said...

If you were unfortunate enough to find yourself at the Martyrs' Memorial tonight I am betting those inflammatory words are still flying. People *wanted* to believe he'd changed, that almost anything he'd previously done was forgiveable.

O'Neill said...


I agreed with you in the post that those views are held, but also that it would be unusual now
a) to see a Unionist political rep coming out publicly with them
b) If he were to do so, for it to be completely ignored by all media and online ourlets.

That would be the difference, the acceptability of the public pronouncements of their bigotry.

Anonymous said...

Journalistic ethics require a balance of two strands of public interest. One is to inform accurately. The other is to avoid the publication of material which is libellous or likely to cause grievous offence. The principles to be applied in making that balance should be based upon secularism, not any form of Christian fundementalism.

What is offensive about this report is not the publication of Mr. Johnston's opinion in quotation marks. It is the meek acquiescence of the Newspaper in trumpeting kind of intolerance as though it is right.

If they were going to quote Mr. Johnston, the Newspaper should either have said that Mr. Johnston's comments were wrong or published a counter-opinion alongside it which stamps the authority of secularism over religious intolerance.

O'Neill said...

And a big shout to my confused readers at:

The point of the quote (apart to reveal Mr Johnston as"old fashioned" in his outlook) is to reveal the difference in attitudes in mainstream society towards homophobic and sectarian utterances.

Wouldn't there have been a longer debate on your site if he *had* said what I quoted?

Anonymous said...

What was wrong with what he said? Or is it just the liberal prods who take offence at everything complaining again?