Life was more straightforward when dinosaurs ruled the earth. Prior to the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, only two things occupied tiny minds; eating things and avoiding being eaten by other things. Existence is now more complex.
Tiny minds capable of loud roars, however, remain and continue to graze and hunt and make loud noises in blissful ignorance of their impending demise. The rather puzzling stand taken by David Cameron over the issue of same sex marriages in places of worship has resulted in all manner of Dinosauria emerging from the Triassic woodwork to bellow defiance at the incoming lump of heaven. Given that members of the coalition front bench are stupid, devious or both, Cameron`s championing of gay rights is somewhat perplexing. His lurch towards something resembling basic humanity and common sense is disturbingly out of character and one must question his motives in upsetting the big, lumbering beasts of the Conservative party and the unpleasant throw-backs who describe themselves as men of God.
Take, for example, the Right Reverend Joseph Devine, Roman Catholic bishop of Motherwell. This is the man of God who has compared a woman`s right to abortion with the Holocaust and, for a celibate, seems to have an unhealthy obsession with gay men. He has written a bizarre almost hysterical letter to the Prime Minister comparing him to Emperor Nero because of his support for same sex marriage. It seems odd that the faith of a senior cleric in a world-wide, established religion should be so fragile that it is threatened by two people wishing to publicly confirm their love and commitment to each other in the house of the Lord (other houses and other Lords are available). The barking bishop, who once compared himself to Mel Gibson in wishing to pick a fight, addresses Cameron directly in his letter. He writes:
“So far as the Roman Catholic Church…is concerned, you are out of your depth. We will take no finger-prodding lectures from anyone or any group devoid of moral competence.”
Apart from the general consideration regarding mental health, there are two illuminating features that inform this dinosaur behaviour. Firstly, the bishop feels qualified to speak on behalf of the entire Roman Catholic Church. One wonders if he checked with the Pope first. Secondly, the long history of systemic, unimaginable sexual abuse of children committed by priests and the subsequent high-level cover up by bishops does not qualify an organisation to lecture, finger-prodding or not, on moral competence. For a man who wears a frock and prays to a statue of a half-naked man suffering unspeakable pain, there is not very much divine about Bishop Devine.
The fossil of Motherwell is not the only ageing male cleric to make a living out of interpreting antediluvian texts written in long dead languages; ancient Post-Achaemenid Aramaic not being widely spoken in Wishaw or Bellshill. Fresh from its triumph in concluding that women are not fit to be ordained as bishops because Adam came first (sounds familiar, eh ladies?), the Anglican Communion have worked themselves up into a lather over same sex marriage. Instead of seeing a loving couple, they see sin, perversion, abomination and the end of civilisation. Perhaps they should spend a little less time imagining what goes on during a same sex honeymoon for the sake of their own eyesight. They and other plodding Diplodocidae roar about the sanctity of marriage being corrupted and churches defiled and who could possibly blame them for this outrage? After all, the Church of England was brought about by a king who really enjoyed marriage. It would be churlish to remind Anglicans so opposed to commitment in a relationship that Henry VIII annulled two of his marriages, had two further wives executed, another died as a result of childbirth and a sixth survived him. It might be best to draw a veil over what Henry VIII did to the monasteries.
The issue of same sex marriage in places of worship might seem relatively insignificant given the scale of barbarism being undertaken in the name of religious observance. Palestinians praise God as they fire rockets into Israel and Israel attempts to bomb Gaza back to the Stone Age in the name of God. In Pakistan, a schoolgirl campaigning for the right to an education is shot in the head by men claiming religious superiority because their interpretation of God`s will is an absolute fact. Damascus is under a siege of biblical proportions with dark talk of chemical weapons that could result in a new Sodom and Gomorrah. Let us hope that Bishop Devine doesn`t get any ideas. In Belfast, poorly educated young men and boys try to kill police officers and threaten to kill local politicians who dared to compromise over the flying of a flag. After having their minds poisoned by ageing male clerics, disaffected young men along the Falls Road and the Shankill might prefer to encounter Raquel Welch in a tiny fur bikini or, if they are so inclined, Johnny Weissmuller in a Tarzan loincloth rather than a dinosaur priest or a dinosaur reverend.
But back to Cameron`s curious stance on same sex marriage. He can, of course, simply ignore the squelching of theological and ecumenical dinosaur limbs sinking slowly into the steaming tar pits of hypocrisy until organised religion becomes the province of the paleontologist. Perhaps he has fond and wistful memories of his fag at Eton or has been listening to too many Judy Garland albums; but something has possessed him to vigorously champion the rights of fellow human beings with unusual ardour. It wasn`t long before the Jurassic raptors from the Tory back benches began to growl. The appropriately named Peter Bone stalked a variety of television studios to bellow indignation at the prospect of Homo sapiens taking over the planet because traditional Conservative supporters would never vote Tory again due to Cameron`s betrayal. He shouted into one camera:
“The Prime Minister is absolutely wrong on this. This `cast-iron guarantee` he has given that no church will be forced to marry someone is obviously false, because the European courts will intervene. What will happen when a couple goes to a local church, same sex, saying they want to be married (and) that church turns them down? Off to a European court and, heigh-ho, all churches will be forced to.”
Heigh-ho, Peter Bone is obviously at the stupid end of the gene pool because he hasn`t spotted what Cameron is up to yet even though his comments give a hint as to the plot that the more intelligent and devious strategists surrounding the Prime Minister have come up with. Undaunted, Bone Head continued to thrash through the swamp intent on eating Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Richard Attenborough. He said:
“It was in no party manifesto, there is no mandate for the Prime Minister to do this; he is absolutely wrong to be doing it now, and he`s splitting the Conservative party when we don`t need it to be split.”
Let`s just run through that again. A Tory MP remembers what an election manifesto is and accuses an unelected Tory Prime Minister of not having a mandate. Bone is one of those voices braying “hear hear” in the background every time another cut is announced and every time people with disabilities are vilified. Pre-historic monsters clearly have no sense of irony.
Cameron`s handlers know what they are doing. The grass root Tory vote is old and dying and the narrow centre ground is where elections are won and lost. With an ineffectual opposition, the only thing holding the dismantling of society in check is the European Court of Human Rights, a legislature loathed by every Tory in the food chain. The plan is elegant and simple. Engineer a couple of pantomime dames demanding to tie the knot at the Bishop of Motherwell`s place of work, or a pair of principle boys in Doc Martins demanding the right to wed in a mosque and stand back to watch the slapstick fun. Bone is right, in steps the ECHR and Cameron will cheerlead the bleating over the loss of national sovereignty and demand that any ECHR jurisdiction cease with immediate effect. This will remove all those irritating human rights that stand in the way of the Tory final solution. The plan is foolproof because any actual self-respecting gay or lesbian couple would not want to be associated with religious bigots who hate people because they love each other.
Paleontologists agree that dinosaurs, along with a lot of other flora and fauna, met their end during the K-Pg extinction event around 65 and a half million years ago at the end of, appropriately enough, the Maastrichtian age of the Cretaceous period. It is known as the K-Pg event because it says so in an old book so it must be true. Scientists, however, have different theories about what caused it and how long it took. Some contend that the destruction was drawn out over millions of years and others propose that it took just a few hours. The most popular theory is that an extraterrestrial bolide impacted the planet near the Yucatan peninsula in present day Mexico but other possibilities include an increase in volcanic activity, basalt floods, a drop in sea level and an increase in Carbon Monoxide in the atmosphere. It is likely that a combination of all these events laid low the mighty dinosaurs.
Scientists offer these theories based on observation and evidence and do not ask us to accept them as fact. Ageing male clerics on the other hand…