• A Nightingale
    In The Sycamore

    The moment Nick laid eyes on Dan, standing on a frozen school rugby pitch; he fell in love with him. For Nick, there was only ever Dan. For years Nick kept his love locked inside, never dreaming that Dan could feel the same way.

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  • The Shadow Of
    Your Wings

    In a stunning debut novel, Tim Bairstow takes us on an unflinching and forensically observed journey in to the darkest recesses of the Church, laying bare the hypocrisy, deceit, self-delusion and damaged lives that lay behind the glittering image.

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  • What Do You Want For Christmas

    Achingly nostalgic and acutely observed, Tim Bairstow's highly acclaimed second novel is by turns sexy, poignant and hilarious. 'What Do You Want for Christmas' strikes deep emotional chords for anyone who has ever been young and in love and not just at Christmas!

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  • Cloven
    Tongues

    Thought provoking and tense, passionate and hugely sexy, Tim Bairstow's latest novel is another compelling addition to British gay romantic fiction.



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The False God of Unity ...

I know; I know! I promised myself that I wouldn't to this too but sometimes you just have to ...

Everyone's favourite Archbishop has given the world the benefit of his wisdom again today and I'm reaching for the blood pressure tablets again! Cole Morton's interview with Archbishop Welby presents a man with a genuine dilemma. I was a bit rude about the Archbishop a while back ... well, frustrated anger does that to a man ... but it would be fair to say that he faces an impossible task. The reason that it is impossible is that he is actually trying to serve the wrong god. He is sacrificing himself at the altar of the god of institutional unity. Unity in falsehood isn't anything that is worth having and serving this particular deity is a sure fire way of earning a one way ticket to a Hell of your own making, as he seems to be finding out.

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My Kind of Saint ... he deserves a pilgimage, don't you think?

Saint Aelred of Rievaulx isn't officially a Saint at all but he is locally revered as such which, for my money, is somewhat nicer. Not that it is at all likely but, were I to be a 'saint' ever, I'd prefer to be regarded as such by those who knew me and in the place where I had lived and stick two fingers up to the Sacred Congregation, or whatever it is that actually makes people pukka saints.

Rievaulx Abbey, the place where Aelred spent the bulk of his life, has long been the very centre of my universe. My long suffering partner is good enough to take me there twice a year when we stay in the most adorable little cottage just around the corner from the abbey in order that I can, as he puts it, 'plug in'.

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"And he ran away, naked ..." Acceptance at last? It seems not!

How very odd!

Only in Mark’s gospel is there any mention of this utterly compelling episode in the Easter story. As Christ is arrested, there is with him a certain young man, scantily dressed in some form of linen robe to cover his nakedness. As members of the crowd, sent by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, arrested Jesus they attempted to seize this young man too. In so doing, the flimsy garment that he was wearing was pulled from him and he ran away, naked into the night. (It’s all there in Chapter 14 of Mark’s Gospel, verses 51-52)

It is usually ignored, this particular part of the story. When it has not been, when scholars have had to try and explain it, it’s amazing just how far they’ve gone to explain him away. For the most part, this young man is dismissed as being a literary device. He is the ‘individuation’ of the desertion of the other disciples. He is, perhaps, the same shadowy and possibly angelic figure that appears at the tomb later on. His nakedness is an echo of the shame of Adam in the Garden of Eden and underscores our ‘original sin’. The poor lad has been made to serve as all sorts of things.

What if he was just a lad?

The Greek word used to describe him is: ‘neaniskos’. This denotes a youth, somewhere in his mid to late teens. It also brings with it a sense of being in the ‘prime of life’, physically attractive. Add to this the very minimal clothing that he wore, and it’s quite likely the lad was what we would call a ‘rent boy’. Such a thing would have been common given the prevalent Hellenistic, pederastic culture of the time and, to contemporaries, the image of the naked youth had very obvious connotations. And yet here he is, at a critical moment in the gospel narrative with a clear suggestion of his closeness to Jesus.

Clearly, here was someone with whom this young man could feel safe. Here was a place where he wouldn’t be judged, where he would be accepted and made to feel that he belonged. As with the healing of the Centurions ‘boy’ (in Greek: ‘pais’ and not ‘doulos’ i.e. a servant) and of course the wonderfully evocative ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ in John’s Gospel, the inference seems to be clear: Jesus was pretty damned ‘gay friendly!’

Shame then that, in the last few weeks, gay people who still want to be a part of the church have been made to feel very much less safe, accepted, welcomed and belonging.

At the time when the first gay marriages were being solemnised, we should have been able to celebrate a final and long fought for equality and acceptance without any cloud on the horizon. So, it’s been particularly distressing to see our old chums, the senior clergy of the church, hastening to man the barricades against such moral monstrosity as the acceptance, welcoming and belonging of gay people.

Chief amongst them was Archbishop Welby, of course. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that the good Archbishop would make a terrific Hollywood ‘baddie’. It’s something to do with the way that his mouth is almost perpetually stretched into a ‘glad grin’ of rejoicing yet his eyes rarely seem to follow suit! Oh yes, the eyes rarely smile! Short pause for malevolent laughter! Move over ‘Lord Voldemort’, here comes ‘Lord Cantuar’!

Ok, so I’m being nasty and personal and childish and all that. Maybe so, but sometimes you can be driven to it … really, you can! The really spooky thing about His Grace, something that he holds in common with a great many Christian commentators and leaders, is the capacity to make something utterly wrong sound completely plausible … always the hallmark of the really accomplished Hollywood villain.

So it was with our anti-hero’s interview last week with LBC, ably reported by that estimable warrior of the light, ‘The Guardian’ (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/apr/04/african-christians-church-of-england-gay-marriage-justin-welby) For sure, standing beside the mass grave of over 300 Christians killed in Nigeria by neighbours who believed that allowing a Christian community to continue to exist in their midst would lead to them “all being made to become homosexuals” can only have been a truly appalling experience. See how ‘Lord Cantuar’ pulls at your heartstrings – golly, one begins to feel sorry for him. For sure, one can only shudder at the idea of witnessing first-hand the gruesome evidence of such a medieval outlook on life, perpetrated in the Twenty First Century.

The rictus grin spreads slowly across the deceptively bland ecclesiastical features. Yet, the eyes darken and become hollow voids. Here comes the twist: “If the Church of England celebrated gay marriage” says the mellifluous, oh so reasonable voice, “the impact of that on Christians far from here in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic!”

So … that’s to say, then: If the Church accepts the validity of loving, homosexual partnerships and celebrates the desire of gay Christians to have their union blessed and affirmed by their own church, they will be guilty of provoking the murder of countless people in Africa!

It wouldn’t be so bad if the Archbishop was saying that he simply longs to accept gay people into the church on an equal footing yet this stands in the way. He doesn’t. He has no intention at all of accepting gay Christians as equals within the church and the idea that gay marriage in the West would cause a bloodbath in Africa and the East is a convenient, moral arm lock to put on those who disagree. How could you possible want to do something that would lead to mass slaughter?

It’s an appalling piece of twisted logic that the Archbishop’s recent attempts at clarification and explanation have done nothing to redress. Though he says that ‘this is not mere consequentialism’ he goes on to describe ‘consequentialism’ pure and simple: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/welby-explains-gays-and-violence-in-africa-remarks

Surely, it would be better, as a whole Christian community, to stand up to those who preach and carry out such violence, to get alongside and protect those who are persecuted, to lobby governments and use the phenomenally long reach of the church in the developing world to proclaim the gospel of love – unconditional love that isn’t at all focussed on what one might like to do with one’s penis in the context of a loving relationship! Would not this constitute ‘mission’ that was worth having?

Not for ‘Lord Cantuar’, it wouldn’t! He has not one word of condemnation for the churches of the Anglican Communion in, for example, Uganda and Nigeria who are lobbying furiously for the criminalisation of even expressing support for gay marriage. Besides, the Church is actually growing in Africa and Asia. It wouldn’t do to upset them, would it? They must be doing something right!

The Church was colossal in the 12th Century. Do we really want to emulate it again now? All too often, it seems so.

Of course, our Hollywood villain condemns homophobia! He’d have to; remember that plausibility is everything. The really clever bit (and you have to take your mitre off to him for this one, it really is good) is the way that he does it. Giving to every individual, he says loftily, “equal importance and dignity” is a Christian duty! So far, so good! But here comes the twisted logic again, the inevitable ‘however’… “However,” he restates and upholds the Christian teaching that there should be “sex only within marriage and only between and man and a woman.” So much for equal importance and dignity … he can express his love for the most important person in his life physically but I can’t! Thanks for that, I feel so affirmed! Kindly, though, he does point out that one should not condemn loving, monogamous, deeply committed gay couples any more than one would condemn adulterous heterosexuals … Oh, well, that’s alright then!

Thank God, then, for the Bishops of Salisbury and Buckingham, a sort of ecclesiastical Harry Potter and Ron Weasley (we’ll have to wait a bit for a Hermione!), if you’ll bear with the J K Rowling theme for a minute. Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury recently applauded gay marriage and urged that the church embrace it as embodying just the sorts of values of commitment, stability and love that are at the heart of the Christian calling. Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, was even braver. He has recently pointed out the lunacy of a church that condemns homosexual practice and within which gay bishops with partners are telling gay clergy and other gay Christians with partners that they can’t marry the men and women that they love.



By the way, if you missed it, you really must catch up on Dr, Christian Jessen’s recent Channle 4 documentary: ‘Cure me, I’m gay’. It’s another festival of lunacy from, depressingly, mainly Christians. However, Dr Jessen is sublime!

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/undercover-doctor-cure-me-im-gay



I’m sure many of us have watched ‘Embarrassing Bodies’ purely to get an eyeful of the gorgeous Doctor even if it is as he broddles about in the diseased and malformed nether regions of some poor unfortunate’s person. While his physique is a bonus, here’s a guy that you would have to love madly even if he looked like George Formby. Watch the programme. In it he gamely takes a ‘gay test’ which involves watching porn whilst on camera (what do you do with your face?) and submits to some pretty brutal treatments. It’s moving, it’s hilarious, it will make you howl with outrage but, as a wonderful exercise in reduction ad absurdum as far as the ‘anti-gay’ stance is concerned (even where it’s espoused by Archbishops) it simply cannot be bettered.

So, with Easter approaching, let’s remember the lad who was with Jesus in Gethsemane. Salvation is meant to be for all – no matter who you love and because you do love!