Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Not a lot has changed in the DUP's attitude towards gays

Tough stance: Ian Paisley opposed legalisaton of homosexuality in the late 1970s
Tough stance: Ian Paisley opposed legalisaton of homosexuality in the late 1970s

Will this week's legalisation of gay marriage in Britain prompt some in the DUP to reconsider their commitment to the UK and thus put a question mark against those startling figures from the Spotlight poll?

Will a section of the party look more kindly now on Irish unity? There's no homosexual cavorting on the marriage bed allowed down South, and won't be if Taoiseach Enda Kenny has his way – a sturdy stance in stark contrast to the limp line of David Cameron.

Jonathan Bell MLA recently explained to Stephen Nolan that there's nothing backward or bigoted about rejection of gay marriage. Civil partnerships give gays all the rights they need. Marriage would add little to their entitlements while compromising the very meaning of the sacrament.

Of course, if the DUP had had its way, there would be no civil partnerships here either. When then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith introduced the required legislation in 2004, Ian Paisley was on his feet in an instant: "Why is the Bill not going to be left until the Assembly is up and running again so that the people of Northern Ireland can make the decision themselves?"

But the interfering Brits went ahead and rode roughshod over the Christian principles on which, according to Dr Paisley, Northern Ireland had been built. His determination that there should be no further such encroachments was a factor in his acceptance of power-sharing to restore the Assembly. The fact that his party can now stymie any move towards gay marriage will give him comfort that his U-turn was the right way to go. On the same edition of the Nolan Show, a man identified as a gay Christian challenged Jonathan Bell's interpretation of the Good Book. The Bible is all about love, he insisted: surely gay people have a right to love in their own way? Well, no. Not if our belief in the Bible is genuine.

The passage that's best known for upholding the DUP position has to do with Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot was the only righteous person in Sodom. So when the Lord resolved to destroy the town on account of rampant homosexuality, he sent two angels to warn Lot to get his family out asap. Genesis 19 tells the tale.

"Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them he rose to meet them ... And he said, 'Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant's house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.'"

So the angels went in and sat down to dinner. Suddenly, a mob of Sodomites converged on the house, shouting: "Where are the men who came to you tonight?

"Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them."

Lot refused. "(Then) he went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him and said, 'Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof'."

But the Sodomites tried to storm the house. Then the angels intervened and "smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness".

In the morning, as soon as the angels and Lot's family had cleared the area, "The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire". All of the inhabitants were consumed in the conflagration.

If we take the Bible as gospel, then the DUP would appear to be on solid ground in saying that God has no time for homosexuals. But if we believe this, do we not also have to believe that not only is it acceptable to slaughter sinners, but also to slaughter their families, neighbours and all associated with them?

Would we not have to accept that a righteous man might hand his virgin daughters over to a mob to be raped?

It is commonly argued the Bible need not be taken literally, that it is best understood as parable, allegory, metaphor, intended not to relate facts but imaginatively to illuminate God's Truth.

So what is the ineffable Truth contained within the story of Lot? Can't see it myself.

It's tempting to conclude that the story is a silly, scary yarn told to a primitive people. That it's all a load, or even a Lot, of baloney.

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