…Or, a bigot begs the question. John Sentamu explains why he objects to same-sex marriage. It’s a staggering piece, chock-full of circular arguments and some breathtaking disingenuousness. A prime example of the latter is his opening:
I will be the first to accept that homosexual people have suffered discrimination and sometimes worse through the decades and that the churches have, at times, been complicit in this.
Er, at times the churches have been complicit in this? Dear God, Sentamu, your Christian church has our blood on its hands. It has been the powerhouse of discrimination and violence against us for centuries, and remains so in many cases, the Roman Catholic Church and the African Anglican churches to name but two.
I think it’s instructive, as one of the commenters on this piece has done, to use Sentamu’s opening words and replace the targets of his piece. It throws into sharp relief Senatmu’s bigotry:
I will be the first to accept that slaves have suffered discrimination and sometimes worse through the decades and that the churches have, at times, been complicit in this. There is much penance to be done before we can look our enslaved brothers and sisters in the eye. But that baleful history does not diminish the need to speak the truth in love.
I firmly believe that redefining society to embrace emancipation would mean diminishing the meaning of life for most people, with very little if anything gained for black people. If I am right, in the long term we would all be losers.
Of course, if someone should ask, “how will my household be affected if servants can be free to come and go as they please?”, the answer is: not at all. But let me put the question another way: what sort of a society would we have if we came to see all social relations primarily in terms of equal rights? Society is designed to meet the different needs of its different members in different ways. It is the model of the just society that responds intelligently to differences rather than treating everyone the same.
While I am a strong supporter of justice and equality of opportunity for all people, I want to insist that with those rights go our responsibilities to one another. These are enshrined, I believe, in our legal definition of human property. Would we be a better society if we made the master-servant relation simply a private contract between two individuals, with no wider implications of society and property rights? I do not believe that we would. The issue is not the implication for any existing household, but the implication for people in the future, when the social meaning of bondage has been changed and, in my view, diminished.
Drawing parallels between the proposed emancipation and the introduction of same-sex marriage ignores the fact that there is more than one paradigm of equality. For me, sexual equality rests on the doctrine that there is only one dominant race – the white race – and any difference of treatment on sexual grounds is therefore unjustifiable. But there is another view, based on the complementary nature of blacks and whites. In short, should there be equality between the races because a black man can do anything a white man can do or because a good society needs the different perspectives of blacks and whites equally?
We’ve moved on from the days when people, including influential churchmen (they’re always men), could say something like the above in polite society. Sentamu may well believe that he is speaking the truth in love, but he is not. He is preaching the same old hatreds that have bedevilled humanity down the centuries.
Sentamu is likely to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. I’m glad I’m no longer a Christian.