Choking on a Smile

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, was asked to clarify his views on homosexuality. Mr Farron, who says he’s a Christian, was asked if he thought homosexuality was a sin. He chose not to answer immediately, then did answer. This is how Christopher Hope put it:

‘Tim Farron has finally clarified his view on gay sex after admitted that it had come a distracting “issue” for his general election campaign. The Liberal Democrat leader said in a BBC interview that gay sex is not a sin, after five days of pressure to clarify his stance on the issue. Mr Farron had faced criticism for days for failing to answer questions about his position on homosexuality. Mr Farron refused to say four times in an interview with Channel 4 News last week whether he believed being gay was a sin.’

The most interesting story is missed.

Consider the debate between writers Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Wilson on the question of same-sex marriage. Douglas Wilson is significantly Christian. Andrew Sullivan claims to be a Catholic while being significantly homosexual.

In their debate it was asked of Wilson what his position would be if, for instance, his son told him he was gay. Sullivan – after Wilson offered the slippery ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line, asked an odd question. (The question was odd because if Sullivan is a Christian, one wonders why he didn’t already know the answer to a question which relates directly to his own sexuality.)

He asked Wilson:

‘What if he said “I’m gay and I’ve never had any sex with any other man”? What sin did he commit?’

Wilson replied:

‘I don’t believe that homosexual orientation is a sin.’

This reasoning should be obvious as sitting under the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line. Wilson’s reasoning seems to come straight from the Bible, specifically Leviticus (20:13) which states:

 “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”

It is plain that homosexual acts are the problem. This formulation gives the Christian (if they know their Bible) the ‘get out’ clause which allows them to state, no, they do not think ‘being gay’ is a sin.

This is why the fuss made about Tim Farron is missing the point.

Why didn’t Farron immediately state that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin? Why refuse, four times in an interview, to answer this question using the get-out clause above? It would have ended things right there.

Days later, he says that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin – something the significantly Christian Douglas Wilson knew straight away.

Why didn’t Farron close the entire line of questioning down immediately by saying the same thing? It was Farron’s refusal to answer which got the press excited. By the time he popped up saying ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin, the hounds have worked out that isn’t the same thing as homosexual acts being sins, which is why the hounds sharpened their question to ask about ‘gay sex’.

And now Farron has been forced to state that he doesn’t think ‘gay sex’ is a sin, when the Christian book states it is. What of Farron’s position now?

Is he lying about his views to avoid being battered by the press as a homophobe? Would a professional politician do that? If he would, what does that say about his Christian convictions?

And the answer to that might be why Farron didn’t immediately play the sin/sinner card to begin with.

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Christian Slaves, Moronic Masters

If some silly humans get their way, the Colston Hall in Bristol will be renamed. The excuse for this that the name, Colston, has ‘become toxic’ and because Colston was a slave-trader, the music venue needs a different name. Changing the name doesn’t benefit anyone, but it will give some single-issue merchants a rush of blood to the head for a few moments.

Changing the name doesn’t change the facts.

One of the defenders of this pointless excercise is David Olusoga. He says in the idea’s ‘defence’ that

‘Those who want to rename Colston Hall, like the students who want to topple Cecil Rhodes (not that I agree completely with them or their tactics), are campaigners for a fuller, more honest remembrance of history, not its erasure.’

That paragraph shows its typer simply doesn’t care. You do not get a ‘fuller, more honest remembrance of history’ by erasing the names of historical figures from public buildings.

In addition, you help nobody.

I promise you that, in removing the Colston name, no hungry children will be fed; no murderer will be caught; no teenage girl, trafficked from Eastern Europe and locked into sex-slavery, will be freed from her misery.

These campaigners are people without a grievance, looking to make themselves feel happier about their lives by claiming they did something good. They will have done nothing good. Nobody alive in Bristol suffered because of Colston’s business. Nobody alive in Bristol should apologise for the slave-trade because nobody alive in Bristol was responsible for the slave trade.

To campaign for the removal of the name is a form of narcissism, and I suspect these silly people are just a bit bored.

The musician, ‘Daddy G’ from ‘Massive Attack,’ was quite pleased with the name change. I have no idea why.

That ‘Massive Attack’ have for years ‘refused to play at Colston Hall’ is to fall for posing and gesture politics of the shallowest kind. If it were the case that ‘Massive Attack’ – upon learning of their city’s history – left the city in protest, refusing to spend their money here, or even enter the city because of it’s links with slavery, then I might believe they had principles. They are simply posing by picking an easy topic to decide to have principles about, one which causes them no inconvenience.

Muslim pirates enslaved white Europeans for centuries. As a white man, I managed to get the fuck over it about half a second after finding out about it.

Julius Caesar enslaved over a million white Europeans during his time in Gaul, helping to make Rome massively wealthy. I wonder if ‘Massive Attack’ has ever played a show in Rome?

Selective principlals are always fake principals.

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Shatter Your Illusions of Love

‘”I am going to get fat and lazy in Hill House,” Theodora went on. Her insistence in Naming Hill House troubled Eleanor. It’s as though she were saying it deliberately, Eleanor thought, telling the house she knows its name, calling the house to tell it where we are; is it bravado? “Hill House, Hill House, House House,” Theodora said softly, and smiled across at Eleanor.’

In 1959 Shirley Jackson published ‘The Haunting of Hill House.’ Stephen King called the novel ‘As nearly a perfect haunted-house tale as I have ever read.’ This quotation sits on the cover of the Penguin Modern Classics paperback, is placed above the title (and Mrs Jackson’s name) so it’s obvious the publisher was happy with it, and why.

The first paragraph of the book was noteworthy for King.

Discussing the haunted house tale in ‘Danse Macabre’, he suggests the house requires an ‘historical context’ – a dark history – and that ‘Jackson establishes it immediately in the first paragraph of her novel, stating her tale’s argument in lovely, dreamlike prose.’ He then quotes the famous opening:

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly; floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

He says of the opening that

Analysis of such a paragraph is a mean and shoddy trick, and should almost always be left to college and university professors, those lepidopterists of literature who, when they see a lovely butterfly, feel that they should immediately run into the field with a net, catch it, kill it with a drop of chloroform, and mount it on a white board and put it in a glass case, where it will still be beautiful…and just as dead as horseshit.

He then goes on to offer some analysis of the opening paragraph. (He promises not to kill it or mount it, only to stun it a little before letting it fly on. I’m not sure he’s right to worry as much. I’ll change his metaphor to an analogy: what type of person doesn’t want to know how the magic-trick was done? What type does?)

Stephen King says he has neither the skill nor the inclination to offer a full analysis of Jackson’s dreamy opening. I’ll believe him about the inclination bit. Stephen King is a magician. I’d bet he knows exactly what Jackson’s opening does – but doesn’t want to reveal another magician’s secret.

Some think knowing the trick ruins the mystery. That depends on whether you prefer knowledge or mysteries. I’m not a magician, I always want to know how the trick is done, and I think knowing increases the beauty of it.

What does King say about it specifically? What he says about it first of all is interesting in itself. He states that

It begins by suggesting that Hill House is a live organism; tells us that this live organism does not exist under conditions of absolute reality; that because (although here I should add that I may be making an induction Mrs Jackson did not intend) it does not dream, it is not sane.

Does the opening ‘suggest’ Hill House is a live organism? I suppose it does, but ‘suggest’ is right. All humans are live organisms, and the first sentence tells us that to remain sane, live organisms need to dream. By ‘dream’ Jackson could well mean ‘fantasise’ or even ‘hallucinate’ as both these describe ways the mind of a live organism, a human one at any rate, can escape reality and therefore maintain sanity.

However I am unconvinced the first sentence actually refers to Hill House. It seems like it does, given the sentence which follows, but one needs to try to explain Jackson’s words ‘not sane’ to make this idea work.

Could she be telling nothing but the plain truth when describing Hill House as ‘not sane’? A house is indeed ‘not sane’ because it is a house, an object, not a live organism. Though something is ‘not sane’ it does not follow at all it must therefore be ‘insane’ – just as if something did not ‘turn left’ does not mean it necessarily ‘turned right’.

I think Jackson added ‘not sane’ into her description of Hill House to link it in the minds of readers with the first sentence, and could do so because to describe the house this way is still to tell the truth about it. If readers take it to mean something else then good: that might be the point – but Jackson hasn’t lied to anyone.

Once this piece of clever misdirection is complete, Jackson can then tell the plain truth about the house in more detail, knowing the reader will not be reading it as the plain truth. (Remove ‘not sane’ – therebye uncoupling it from the first sentence. Does it sound quite so creepy?)

Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly; floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

The ending sounds spooky, but it would be true of anyone who walked around a house by themselves. They would walk alone if that house wasn’t haunted.

In other words the first paragraph disorientates the reader; allows the reader to think the ‘problem’ – or the ‘issue’ as we might now say – lies with house, when the problem might really be with one of the characters about to pay Hill House a visit…

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