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Those who think they have the right to judge others as sinners are simply putting their own pride before a fall

By Lindy McDowell

Published 10/08/2016

Strident voices: protestors, back right, object to the Pride parade. On the left are loyalist flag
Strident voices: protestors, back right, object to the Pride parade. On the left are loyalist flag protestors
A colourful character at the Belfast Pride Parade

As an unbeliever I don't pretend to be a Bible scholar but there is a bit in the Good Book, is there not, that has something about judging not lest ye shall be judged?

This line occurred to me on Saturday as I was ambling through Belfast doing a bit of shopping and enjoying the massive and colourful crowds gathering for the annual Pride parade.

Long before I'd reached City Hall I could hear the anti-gay protest. Not because it was that big. But because it was amplified. The preacher's voice, his sing-song, mournful, accusatory delivery boosted by microphone was booming right down the city's main thoroughfare.

There was much dire warning about sin, sinning, transgression, transgressing, iniquity, iniquitousness, self-deception, love not being a human right and the Corinthians.

The Corinthians were getting a bit of a burl on grounds of their allegedly comprehensive iniquity.

The protesters, mostly male and mostly elderly (there were a few women in hats) were lined up in front of the City Hall gates, scowling balefully at the scenes of jollity beyond.

A line of police officers separated them from the Pride parade attendees although really there was no need. Neither side looked likely to resort to violence.

The preacher was on a sort of stream of consciousness roll, segueing from remarks about the "Love is..." placards being waved at him to an odd ramble about how the nearby traffic lights symbolised things you could and couldn't and, indeed, shouldn't do. A younger man with this anti-gay faction had crossed the police line to engage in argument (good natured on both sides) with a group of teenagers beside me.

But it was the grim preacher and his solemn entourage at the gates which fascinated me.

What is it impels people, not just to set themselves up in judgment of others in the first place, but to believe themselves so ideally equipped and entitled to lecture and to preach to the rest of the world?

I am sure that among the protesters were well-meaning, decent souls. But at times in the preaching voice there was a note that sounded (to me anyway) less preachy, more hectoring.

It was as if he was baiting the crowd for a response. He didn't get one.

I tried to see the crowd from his eyes but all I could see was what was around me. Teenagers with rainbows plastered on their faces and clothes having a bit of fun.

Families out to enjoy the spectacle, shepherding the smaller children to the front of the milling crowd for a better view. People of all ages, all backgrounds.

True, there were some outfits that might have caused your granny to shield her eyes (my granny, anyway) but it was still more Royal Avenue than Rio.

And among the tens of thousands of onlookers and paraders there will have been very many Christians. Godly and gay or godly and gay-friendly is not a contradiction. Whatever some preachers might care to assert. Self-righteousness isn't a new thing. It isn't just an old thing either.

Virtue signalling on today's social media isn't a bible thump away from such holier-than-thou posturing.

Similarly cyber-patrolling for Things To Take Offence At in order to point up your own wholesomeness. But what impressed me most on Saturday was that, despite so many people being so loudly lambasted for their supposed "sin", how little rancour there was in that great crowd.

People didn't even seem to notice the guldering. Everybody seemed to be smiling.

If somebody was roaring "sinner" at me I don't think I would handle it with quite the same equanimity or with the same dignity. But I suppose that's just further proof of my own obvious iniquity.

As the preacher would doubtless judge it.

Why all the fuss over Jamie the journo?

In the old days you knew who a journalist was. He was the bloke in the trilby with a Press card sticking out of the rim. Times change. So I don't understand the horror in some quarters over news that Jamie Bryson (above) former flaggist, turned blogger and author is now a member of the NUJ. He qualifies under NUJ criteria and he's paid his dues. So why the fuss? I believe the media (mainstream and now online) should be about encouraging new debate and new voices.

Bryson, fair play to him, doesn't even style himself a "journalist." Is the problem for some, though, not what he is? But who he is?

Stone me... mum indulges her mini-vandal

You know you're in Belfast when ... you're walking out of a shop in Donegall Place and you watch a wee boy of about eight years of age pick up a stone and then randomly clod it at the back of a stationary bus.

And then his mother simpers indulgently: "Och, come on now, son, don't be doing that here."

Don't be doing it here?!

Where does she think he should be doing it?

No reprimand. No panic even at the thought the driver might jump off and confront her precious little stone-thrower.

You know you're in Belfast ...

Belfast Telegraph

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