(From Times Online)
Anyone who has endured years of teenage, and often adult, angst coming to terms with their homosexual attraction, as Alexandra Mankowitz recounted in The Times Online last Monday, cannot help but be deeply moved.
Anyone who has endured years of teenage, and often adult, angst coming to terms with their homosexual attraction, as Alexandra Mankowitz recounted in The Times Online last Monday, cannot help but be deeply moved.Like her, I too came out at 17, and felt incredible shame and abject loneliness trying to dodge the assumption of heterosexuality and the homophobic bullying that was ever present in the Northern mining community in which I grew up.Unlike her, however, my parents had no gay friends. Nor were there any visible gay role models within spitting distance of the Watford Gap to offer a hand of hope or consolation in my time of despair and silent suffering.I was raised in a Christian household and experienced only unconditional love, both before and after declaring my homosexual nature. Yet for many in the gay community, religions represent nothing other than bastions of division and rejection. For some time I too shared this belief, until I was presented with a fresh challenge.
My life calling, I wholeheartedly believed, was to challenge the leaders of religion that homosexuals should be treated with the same dignity and rights as everyone else. This was especially true of the Christian community in which I had been raised. The more senior the religious leader’s role, the more I rose to the challenge.Along the journey of acrimonious engagement with different expressions of Christianity I came across some startling, dare I say life-changing, revelations. In short, I came to understand that some of the people and organisations that I had consistently learned to blame and finger-wag for my despair were in fact conduits of my discovering an equal standing with others. This in turn led to a deeper sense of self-acceptance and my despair metamorphosing into a rich hope.The season of Lent, the 40-day period in the run up to Easter, has become a great gift to me and to many homosexual men and women I know. It is the season where we recognise that no one gets it right all the time, that everyone is in need of compassion and mercy, and that before God we all experience apartheid, sexual or otherwise, in some form or other.The life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ take on a whole new meaning and relevance when we each willingly and humbly acknowledge and release our prejudices, sufferings and judgements of others to God who came in human form. He is the one who has taken into himself any shame, despair, and the inequalities that so many of us feel and experience through life. He is the one that transforms our exclusion into inclusion, not with the righteous and conceited, but with the broken and meek. Everyone is welcome – Jew, Muslim, atheist, homosexual. Everyone.In Christ there is no inequality and no changing legislation. Each person is met where they are and embraced with unconditional love.For the past five years I have facilitated a group for men and women with homosexual attraction in the heart of London. Although authentically Catholic in both name and nature, it attracts a wide ethnicity and is attended by those of other Christian expressions, other faiths and unusually by those of no faith. It is the last thing I ever imagined doing when I first came out as a gay man in my late teens, especially as I saw the Catholic Church’s teaching as being the most archaic of all.The group’s policy is to refuse to diminish anyone by using labels, and especially restrictive terms such as gay and lesbian, while honestly facing the reality of thoughts, feelings and actions. We seek to meet each other on our unique life journeys with authenticity and to bring them to the cross. It is here we have made sense of our sufferings and pain, and where crippling shame can be left behind.Once stripped of a socio-sexual identity, which by its very nature can bring about feelings of inequality and exclusion, many report over time experiencing a deeper sense of integration within themselves and with those around them, and a new-found sense of equality irrespective of any homosexual feelings.Many today call for increased legislation to rid our society of its seemingly draconian inequalities. And yet equality for one sector will always diminish the equality for another and thereby fail in the goal it seeks to attain.Concern shared by some homosexual men and women is that pockets of society, including the so-called gay community and other minority groups, are looking for deep inner resolution merely through external means.We have discovered, much to our surprise, that legislation will not, because it cannot, eradicate the deep sense of injustice that so many face. In fact, legislation can often further blind and hinder us from making the necessary inner journey we all have to take to bring about greater social equality.James Parker facilitates the London EnCourage group.
April 12, 2010 at 3:33 am
I disagreed. Only through elimination of anti-gay religions would equality be truely accomplished.
If a god is against equality, like the christian god right now, it is a shit god, not unlike a lot of different monster being worshipped in ancient time. It (god) should be eliminated.
April 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm
The Christian God is not in any way anti-gay. This is an entirely fallacious argument concocted by bigots who have distorted the essential message to further their own ends.
April 13, 2010 at 3:01 am
Are you sure? As observed, anti-gay attitude is very wide spread among christians. I think it is christianity that is at fault of spreading hatred mesages agaisnt gays.
It is the problem of christianity in reality. Unless you could present some evidence why some christians are bigots while others are not affect by christain teachings.
May 9, 2010 at 1:41 am
Today I was at a Pro life Conference in London where James Parker was speaking. He was advertised as a founding member of a positive mens group” Harvesters” and I looked forward to an interesting and balanced presentation. However, the Homophobic rant which followed upset me greatly. I wrote to the organisers as follows as there was no real opportunity to challenge this …person?
” I regret that your otherwise useful and well organized conference today should have promoted such negative and homophobic attitudes. From the defense of the Church on child abuse issues, the connections made between homosexuality and pedophilia, and the dissection of Gay men and Lesbians in the horrific presentation by James Parker I left feeling physically sick. Your ban on the making of comments prevented a response other than “questions” which would have been a waste of time to such opinionated speakers. Yes I am angry. But mostly disappointed that an organization which has so much to offer on true pro life issues such as abortion and Euthanasia should be dominated by attitudes which thankfully are not to be found in the mainstream Catholic Church in England Wales. It has taken me twenty years to be ready to become a Catholic and fortunately with the help of true catholic friends and a wise parish Priest I have made it. Events like today do not challenge my faith as I am a fully whole person in the sight of God which is what matters. I will not become a member or support you again which is a cause of regret. James Parker and his allies do not preach a gospel which I recognize.”
I do consider myself a real man, albeit wounded, and I do not need Mr. Parker to vilify and abuse me and many others in this way,
June 9, 2010 at 10:40 am
“imark”, I am sorry you did not find my presentation interesting and balanced, which is strange as these are the very words that most people used towards me following all I said.
It would appear that you did not take on board all I said at the beginning and end of my presentation when I referred to the “utmost respect, compassion and sensitivity” that must be categorically shown to anyone who is not so-called ‘mainstream heterosexual’. I spoke out of my many years of homosexual practice and did not digress from what the Catholic Church teaches and upholds.
I spoke at the Pro Life Conference as a survivor of many years of horrendous childhood sexual abuse which I vulnerably sought to share with those attending, yourself included. I would never try, and have never tried, to defend any action of sexual abuse, and especially when committed in a spiritual setting. This mirrors my own experience and it is deeply unpleasant to go through the British courts as I have done to seek the future protection of children and to be branded a liar by the prosecution along the way when the defendant himself eventually admits to his past guilty acts. In fact, I have challenged the Church and secular institutes on many occasions in the past around their inability to truly grasp the issues relating to childhood sexual abuse.
As for accusing me of making connections between homosexuality and paedophila, I did not, and again would not, insinuate that people who are gay are paedophiles. I, and many others who deal with this topic on a daily basis – both subjectively and objectively – are left wondering why there are more male minors sexually abused by clergy than female minors when there has become the common belief that about ten percent of the population is homosexual. Many gay publications, by their own witness, raise up and deify young men/’twinks’, who in some cases are made to appear well below the age of consent. Childhood sexual abuse is committed by ALL variants of sexual persuasion, and we should not try and admit otherwise.
I would also like to point out that I am NOT a founding member of Harvesters, even though I was advertised as this. Neither is my name mentioned among the organisers on their website in any shape or form. Harvesters is an excellent men’s network which welcomes all men who are looking to give and receive sincere support to one another. It has no policy on sexuality issues but rather seeks to support each man as best as possible along his life journey.
I have no doubt that you, like the rest of us, are a real man who is wounded. As for vilifying and abusing you, or indeed others, in any way, I am indeed sorry that this was your experience. Again, I would never wish this upon anyone, and only seek to challenge, encourage and upbuild.
June 10, 2010 at 8:45 pm
I did not say that Mr.Parker connected Homosexuality to paedophilia ..the conference lead speakers sharing the afternoon did. Also the sessions were divided into LIFE AND DEATH. Guess which session his talk was included in? Time has passed and I no longer feel angry. However, any man who has to produce his wife and child” on stage” to endorse his heterosexuality seems pretty suspect to me. I have recieved genuine expressions of regret from the organisers and Harvesters, which seem honest in their intentions. I do not feel the same can be said for Mr. Parker.