Monthly Archives: October 2012

Christian Concern, Barclay’s and the stench of hypocrisy

Symon Hill

If you thought that Christian Concern couldn’t sink any lower, think again. This group say that they want to “infuse a biblical worldview into every aspect of society”. Their latest campaign exposes the hollowness of this claim more than anything they have done yet. They have now made clear that they are prepared to overlook key messages of the Bible in favour of promoting homophobia.

Christian Concern have this week criticised Barclay’s and a number of other banks. Now why would a Christian organisation criticise banks? I hope they would do so because of the banks’ role in the economic crisis, because of their tax avoidance, because of their exploitation of the poor in the interests of the rich and – most of all – because they are based on usury, a practice denounced throughout the Bible. The Bible condemns the exploitation of the poor and the practice of usury – lending money at interest or, more broadly, making money out of money – more than almost any other sins. Now we have an economic system built on usury.

But Christian Concern don’t seem to have a problem with any of this. They have not mentioned it. Their objections to Barclay’s, Coutt’s and Price Waterhouse Coopers is that they are sponsoring an event promoting lesbian, gay and bisexual people’s rights. More particularly, they are sponsoring Stonewall’s annual awards dinner. Christian Concern are focussing on the part of the event that they can most easily be presented as objectionable by referring to Stonewall’s award for “Bigot of the Year”.

As a result, Barclay’s and Coutts have now said that they will not sponsor the event in future unless this part of it is removed. I hope Stonewall will have the backbone to stand up to them. Like Christian Concern, I have a problem with these sort of companies sponsoring a Stonewall event – but for different reasons. My objection is that Stonewall should not associate themselves with such unethical companies. It demeans Stonewall and undermines the progressive causes for which they struggle.

Christian Concern’s Andrea Williams claims that the award for “Bigot of the Year” seeks “to humiliate and intimidate those who hold mainstream views on marriage rather than engaging with their arguments”. But the award is not an attack on everyone who opposes same-sex marriage. It is about bigotry, as a glance at the shortlist reveal.

The shortlist consists of Ugandan minister Simon Lokodo, who wants to execute people who have same-sex relations more than once; former Christian People’s Alliance leader Alan Craig, who compared the LGBT rights movement to the Nazis; Keith O’Brien, who equated the introduction of same-sex marriage with the legalisation of slavery; former Ulster Unionist politician Ken Maginnis, who described homosexuality as “unnatural and deviant” and argued it would lead to the legalisation of child sex abuse; and Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, who suggested that gay men are less healthy and who attributed a gay MP’s death to his sexuality.

From their comments and behaviour, it is clear that this is not simply a list of people who have a problem with same-sex relationships. It is a list of bigots. These individuals, stirring up prejudice, hatred and (in Lokodo’s case) violence against gays, lesbians and bisexuals are the people who Christian Concern are so keen to defend.

In an “Action Alert” to their supporters yesterday, Christian Concern said only that the nominees include “a cardinal, an archbishop, a member of the House of Lords and Alan Craig”. They conveniently missed off Lokodo from the list. Their wording implies that these people should be respected because of their positions in society. They seem to have forgotten that God is no respecter of persons.

When I tweeted about this issue earlier today, a few Christian bloggers who are backing the criticisms of Barclay’s over Stonewall told me that they also had criticisms of Barclay’s over its unethical economic behaviour. I respect that; at least they’re showing some consistency (although I still wonder if they really think that the five people on the shortlist are not bigots).

Christian Concern, however, are showing no consistency with their own stated aims. By defending Lokodo, O’Brien, Tartaglia, Maginnis and Craig, they have made clear that they share the bigotry that these individuals have promoted. They have ignored the economic sins of big business in general and Barclay’s in particular. The Bible condemns economic exploitation many hundreds of times. In contrast, those who use the Bible to attack same-sex relationships rely on a very small number of ambiguous passages. It is not biblical values, but homophobic values, that Christian Concern are seeking to promote.