I don’t normally feel the need to write criticism of religious figures but lately there seems to have been an outbreak of foot-in-mouth disease in the Church of England. I am referring in particular to the comments of Reverent Peter Mullen and Reverend Wallace Benn.
Reverend Peter Mullen, Chaplain to the London Stock Exchange, wrote on his now defunct blog that gay men should have warnings tattooed on their “backsides” saying “SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH” and on their chins “FELLATIO KILLS”. He also made derogatory and offensive comments about Muslims. Unsurprisingly, the homophobic comments have drawn comparisons with the pink triangle badges used to mark homosexuals in Nazi Germany. In his defence Rev. Mullen says “I wrote some satirical things on my blog and anybody with an ounce of sense of humour or any understanding of the tradition of English satire would immediately assume that they’re light-hearted jokes,“. Funny, it appears to me to be more like the old tradition of making homophobic, racist, offensive and crass comments. A spokesperson for the LSE pointed out that it was a historical title and “There are no formal links between us and him in any way.“. The blog has entirely disappeared but various parts are quoted in the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, the Guardian and the Telegraph. I do find myself wondering if the LSE has an Anglican chaplain whether the BHA could offer them the services of a humanist chaplain…
Moving on from the offensive to the plain daft. I was flicking through an abandoned copy of the Metro London edition when I happened upon a short article about how Reverend Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes, says that the current credit crisis is God punishing us for our greed. While most people would probably agree that greed definitely played a part in the current financial situation, I personally would be more inclined to say that this was also a probable result of deregulating much of the financial market. You reap what you sow. However, in his newsletter, Rev. Benn states that “God has allowed it for good“. What? The Adam-Smith Institute think-tank aptly pointed out that “Many people who have not worshipped materialism have seen their lives made poorer.“. A good point well made, I feel. At a time when he should be looking to support and lead his congregation and see that the vulnerable are cared for, this spiritual leader is wasting time attributing to the wrath of God events which have clearly identifiable causes. I just feel that this sort of behaviour is only one step away from blaming natural disasters on homosexuals or some such. The Daily Mail reports in more detail.
In conclusion, I would like to suggest that the Anglican church explain civil and reasonable conduct to their clergy or that they keep them away from keyboards. It is one thing to say “I dislike homosexuality and my religion forbids it” but another thing entirely to make offensive and crude comments. It also seems churlish and quite frankly cruel to be casting damning blame in times of hardship, when your congregation needs support and guidance. These individuals need to learn that as public figures they take full responsibility for what they say and that being part of the Anglican church does not exempt them from this. There are plenty of reasonable, civil, intelligent and articulate people of faith in the UK effecting positive change, but these two men make the Anglican church look foolish and bigoted.