Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Experience Of Watching Ray Comfort's Latest Movie "Audacity"

Like Tim Farron, Ray Comfort believes homosexuality is a sin (equal to stealing, adultery and "fornication"). His latest movie "Audacity" is dedicated to the subject of witnessing to homosexuals. It makes for some uncomfortable viewing.

Uncomfortable mainly because of Ray Comfort's excruciating "gotcha" footage where he wanders up to people in the street and leads them off down the garden path.

Just like watching this video of Richard Dawkins destroying an ill-prepared Brandon Flowers (I love Dawkins but seeing him up against Flowers is as uncomfortable as watching a lorry drive over a rabbit), Comfort bamboozles these unprepared people by playing with words.

For instance he gets them to say whether they think homosexuals are "born that way". If they agree he then asks if they think adulterers are "born that way". This is draw a comparison between betraying the trust of someone you love and loving someone of the same sex. Like deers in headlights they are taken aback by this "logic". Yet Comfort's belief that these two things are both equally sinful is based solely on scripture whereas adultery and homosexuality are facets of human existence that have extremely complicated genetic, social and psychological causes and explanations that require a lot more discussion than just a "gotcha" attempt at conversion.

And his question "Are you a good person?" seems to bring out the worse in people. Who on Earth just says "Yes" or "I think I am"? All of us know we are in some way flawed (and no I'm not suggesting we're all sinners but that we could all be better people), the only way I could ever answer that question is "I try every day to be better". He then uses their silly answer to tell them they are sinners and they need to repent. It is like watching a cat play with mice. Painful.

The movie itself, set around these visual asides, is full of cardboard characters who don't appear fully human. The angry gay. The good Christian boy. The questioning girl. The easily converted gay (okay there are actually a fair number of these). I'm really not sure this movie was aimed at actually converting anyone, it is all very much "soul food" for the converted. Maybe I'm just not the target audience but it just seems to rely too much on a belief that the Bible is true. I mean if you don't accept that, how on Earth does the rest of it make sense?


Monday, 24 August 2015

A Cultural Libertarian? I Guess I Am

After I got off my "EQUAL MARRIAGE NOW!!!" kick I got on to my "Ugh! New Purtians are the worst" kick. From the desperately rubbish lose the lad's mags campaign through to persecuting innocent young people off of university campuses, the new Puritans have been pushing further and further into our lives.

Breitbart (yes I know) has a wonderful article today about the "Rise of the Cultural Libertarians". I have to say that, despite it being a little too fawning in its praise of the movement, I found myself nodding at every "belief" it described.

Yes, many of the Cultural Libertarians doing the loudest shouting are obnoxious and, may I say, odious. But... they are also often pretty spot-on on many political issues. Somehow they manage the seemingly, if you spend any time on social media anyway, difficult task of opposing rape AND opposing false accusations.

I'm not a fan of labels and I guess I share little politically with many Cultural Libertarians. But hey it fits me better than a lot of other labels. And one I feel I can adopt with some sort of pride.

Monday, 3 August 2015

On #CecilTheLion, It Is Time To Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

Gosh. The articles, blogs and tweets on the agonising death of Cecil the lion have been voluminous (and varied). From hate pieces against the barbarian(s) that caused his death (you might be starting to get a feel for how I feel about this), through the "Twitter mobs are evil" articles and the "You eat meat so don't be a hypocrite!" and out to pieces on the evil of white people and how the trophy hunting industry is a boon to needy Africans.

I'm not here to deal with any of that though. There are more than enough foul-mouthed folks out there after the blood of Walter Palmer (and other trophy hunters). There are more than enough people spot on about the evils of social media hate mobs and how helpful any financial input into some African economies can be.

No I'm here to talk directly to the people who stand on the principle that killing endangered (or at least at risk) animals for fun is morally different to killing for food or population control but don't like being too mean to others and want to do something positive instead.

We'll never stop trophy hunting (and poaching for other purposes such as supply the Chinese "medicinal" industry) if we don't think about how we can stop the reliance on this trade of the local people in the areas concerned and deal with their concerns and issues (like predation of livestock and damage and danger to life and property from the local megafauna). And that is why, if you really care about African megafauna, you need to put your money where your heart is... If you aren't already start donating to one of the many good conservation organisations working in Africa.

I've joined the Born Free Foundation today. Partly because I find their approach to be right and partly because I remember buying a few Born Free books as a kid as a jumble sale and falling in love with Elsa.

Yes we can all sit around waving our virtual pitchforks and call for the death of a total stranger. But if we can start funding organisations on the ground who can help change things for the better for the people and animals of Africa then we'll really make a difference (and honour the story of Cecil the lion).

Let's make Cecil the Elsa of this generation and push forward with making our world a little nicer for everyone and everything.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Homosexuality Is Not A Sin

If I was a gay/bi teenage liberal just coming to terms with my sexuality, reading some of the stuff posted by defenders of Tim Farron would probably be enough to send me scuttling back in to the closet.

So to them I want to be very, very clear: homosexuality is not a sin. It is a not a "condition", let alone one that requires other's compassion. It is not a "second-best" option. It is not inferior. The quality of love between two men (I can't speak for others but I'm sure it is also the same between two women) is not one iota less than that between a man and a woman.

I've seen Lib Dems suggest a Christian's distaste to homosexuality to be akin to most people's distaste for heroin users. I.e. "I believe in the right of someone to inject themselves with heroin but I think it is bad for them and I'd argue that they shouldn't". Well isn't that a beautiful message to send out to young gay and bi people? "You have the right to do what you do, but it's a sin!"

My love for my other half is NOT equivalent in anyway to the love a heroin user has for a needle. And I will not sit silently by whilst that sort of message is sent out to vulnerable young people.

Now Tim Farron hasn't said the above, thankfully, so I'm only directing about 10% of my anger at him for his failure to be clearer. I am disturbed though by those defending the concept of believing homosexuality is a sin.

Some have said "We're liberals, we should support people holding beliefs we find objectionable as long as they harm no one else". Totally agree. But I wouldn't want someone who thinks Africans are an inferior race leading a party I was a member of, regardless of the fact he supports their equality 100% in his public life.

A disturbing number of people, both heterosexual and other, seem to accept the idea that homosexuality "isn't ideal". They very much support our rights and freedoms. But in their heart of hearts they really do not accept us.

My message to LGBT young people is this... THERE IS NOTHING SINFUL ABOUT LOVING SOMEONE OF THE SAME GENDER. Nothing. Not one thing. Our love is not inferior to anybody else's . We must never forget that.

Further reading.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Bye Bye Lib Dems

11 years have come and gone so quickly. Yet those happy days supporting Peter Carroll for Folkestone and Hythe and getting excited about a visit from Charles Kennedy seem like a lifetime ago. 

My membership came up for renewal a couple of weeks back. I put off renewing until after payday for entirely practical reasons. I had been on a bit of a "Lib Dem high" of late with the Lib Dem fightback rhetoric and the prospect of a new leader. I even decided to defend my choice for leader, Tim Farron, from some attacks on his record on same-sex marriage.  

How quickly my mood can change. I must be very fickle. But in the wake of his interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4, I can no longer force myself to give Tim Farron the benefit of the doubt. I'd done that after serious concerns before and this... this is the straw that broke the camel's back.

If someone asked me "Do you think practicing Christianity is stupid?", I'd say no. So I'm not really sure I share others nuanced views of Farron's inability to answer a similar question about homosexuality and sin. I get the theological arguments. I get that "it's complicated" probably is a good answer for a short interview and expressing his views might take forever. But really, ultimately, it is a yes or no question. The fact he couldn't answer broke my liberal heart. How different things are under Farron than under Clegg... 

But far worse than his interview has been watching Lib Dems engage in theological and philosophical debates over homosexuality, stretching partisan apologia into the realms of Christian apologists. This just isn't the party I thought it was. I got it wrong, I'm sure the party is the same as ever. 

As some have said "Well you didn't mind Kennedy?". I didn't. But I thought the way Clegg dealt with religion and sexuality was a breath of fresh air. I've been spoilt and obviously ruined. 

I'd say one of my personal fundamental red lines is "homosexuality is not a sin". I cannot follow a man who believes otherwise or refuses to take a stand on that stance. Thus I won't be renewing my lapsed membership. I hope, for this country's sake, the Lib Dems prosper and flourish under Tim Farron's leadership. I see no other party even close to matching my political beliefs. But I won't be there to prosper along side you. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

If Pitcairn Island Can Do It, You Can Northern Ireland! #equalmarriage

Last month Pitcairn Island legalised same-sex marriage. One small little British outpost (of 56 people) in the Pacific Ocean managed to be more liberal in a shorter space of time than Northern Ireland which is part of western Europe.

Come on Northern Ireland (and the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey etc.). If the Seventh-day Adventist Pitcairn Islanders can do it, you can too!!!

Also they managed to do it in a gender-neutral, and vastly superior way, when compared with England and Wales' attempt.

Not that this is the first time the Pitcairn Islanders have been ahead of the curve...

Saturday, 13 June 2015

A Merger Of Labour and the Lib Dems Would Be Bad For British Democracy

There has been some talk of late of the need for the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats to merge. Such talk is not unexpected. We are in a period of great political uncertainty. Two unions (the United Kingdom itself and its union with the EU) are now at risk of falling apart. Both Labour and the Lib Dems have suffered significant defeats. Nationalists now form the main party in Scotland (SNP) and the third party in England (UKIP). Both Labour and the Lib Dems need to contemplate their next steps carefully.

So a discussion of a merger should not be taboo. I quite agree that all options should be open. But such a merger in order to "gain power" would come at the detriment of British democracy. All the major parties of the United Kingdom are unwieldy coalitions of quite different groups. The Lib Dems don't just break down into Social Democrats and Liberals. There are classical liberals, social liberals, social democrats and people further to the left. All find a home in the Lib Dems for entirely practical reasons... there is no other party that represents their interests better even if it is far from perfect. Whereas, for example, these groups would have 3 or 4 different parties in most northern European countries to choose from that more closely align to their beliefs, here in the United Kingdom our electoral systems mean we must make some uncomfortable compromises.

This is already detrimental to our democratic choices. We should be working to enable MORE choice politically not only to encourage more people to engage with politics but also to allow more diverse voices to be heard in our Parliament and better represent the real feelings of the British people.

Merging the Lib Dems with another coalition of divergent groups (i.e. the Labour party) might make everyone feel like their are being very grown-up and overcoming nasty partisan feelings and able to make those "uncomfortable decisions" that are "for the greater good". But what they will really be doing is denying people a choice of parties with a reasonable chance of affecting Government policy that best fit their beliefs.

I, as a liberal, would find it incredibly difficult to support a Lab-Lib Dem candidate who, perhaps, is of the Bennite tradition. I shouldn't need to put party unity ahead of agreeing with the candidate for my constituency. But that would be exactly what I'd be asked to do. This sort of merger does not decrease partisan feelings. It seeks to curtail diverse voices and replace diversity with conformity to a unified party of the "left". Surely putting such a mongrel of a party before your own personal beliefs would be the very definition of "partisan"?

Better we get a better electoral system which allows for a greater diversity of parties which, though none will ever represent us all, will allow people in this country to stop making uncomfortable compromises at every election and allow their true voices to be heard.

Then the parties will be the ones having to make those uncomfortable decisions and be grown-ups and work together in coalitions "for the greater good". That would be far superior and must be what we all work together to achieve.

There's nothing stopping the Labour and Lib Dem parties working together towards such electoral reform. Better that than an unhappy marriage of convenience for nothing more than power-hungry reasons.