A Letter to the Uxbridge Three or Four

Dear Uxbridge Three or Four, 

I am sorry I can’t address you personally but I have not been able to find your names in the reports of the incident which occurred outside Uxbridge Tube Station at 1.35 pm on Friday, 23rd April.  That was when you were caused such “alarm and distress” by homophobic comments that you all felt you had to call the police.

The man who caused you so much upset was a John Sherwood, who is the Pastor of a local church.  Actually, I have to tell you that Mr Sherwood was not breaking the law.  People are allowed to preach in the open air if they wish, even if it tends to upset people.  

Way back in tne the summer of 2018 a London bus driver, called Allan Coote, was stopped from preaching outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, but on that occasion it was the Dean and Chapter who complained**.

Paster John Sherwood and Mr Allan Coote. Both fomenters of alarm and distress.

At the moment, there is no law in England that prevents a person from quoting from the Bible either.  I gather, from the reports, that Mr Sherwood had been reading from Genesis, Chapter 1 v27:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female created he them.”

(I’m sorry if this offends you but it is a very short verse.)

I can understand if you find those words truly shocking but you must remember they are words that people have believed for several thousand years.  New, liberal ideas are often hard for people to adopt overnight. 

Here’s another point that may make it easier for you to understand where bigoted homophobes are coming from.  Mr Sherwood and his partner, Mr Peter Simpson, had been preaching about the value of family, and the benefits to children who are brought up in a stable family with committed parents, one of each sex.  They were not lying when they made these statements.  A wide range of independent studies have proved this over many years and so, inevitably, there are hundreds and thousands of people around today who still believe this to be true.

Thanks to you, Mr Sherwood, who is 71, was pulled down from his ‘soapbox’, hand cuffed after some manhandling by three or four police officers, and taken off to the local police station where he was kept overnight.  A file on this ‘hate crime’ has, of course, been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.  I am sure you will receive many congratulations from Stonewall, Pink News, Jayne Ozanne and many LGBTQUI+ members, who will be encouraged by your brave actions.  However, I think I should also warn you that, with people like Messrs Sherwood and Simpson, you may not have shut them up for good.  Despite the offence and pain they have caused you I suspect that they will go on preaching and quoting from the Holy Bible until the law definitely forbids it. 

I am sure that time may come, and perhaps fairly quickly; then such examples of free speech will be banned.  In fact, I think you can look forward to a time, in the not too distant future, when ‘Woke law’ will have managed to close all Christian churches and “My Truth” rather than “God’s Truth” will be all that matters.  Though, I think I should point out that Muslim congregations will put up a far harder fight than the rather spineless CoE.

Police at the lectern in church for the Good Friday Mass

Until that time comes may I suggest you take some precautions so that you avoid the hurt and misery you suffered in Uxbridge?  For a start, make sure you avoid any people who are standing on ‘soapboxes’.  As well as quoting from the Scriptures they might be telling you there’s no such thing as climate change, for example, or assuring you that you must or must not get vaccinated.  People have such weird ideas these days, and you wouldn’t want to put yourself in danger of hearing anything offensive unawares.  Make sure you are always listening to something on your smart phone so that you can’t hear any conversations going on around you.  Toxic white males and institutional racists are about everywhere, as well, and you can have no idea of the sort of things they might say. 

Perhaps you could be kind enough to pass on this advice to your like-minded friends who get so easily offended and warn them, above all, to steer well clear of St. Paul.

** Blog entitled ‘How (not) to spend £10 million’. August 1st, 2018

What is Truth?

It wasn’t clear when Pilate asked that question more than two thousand years ago.  It’s even less easy to answer it today when we can all have our own ‘truth’ if we wish.  We’ve seen for a long time how feelings trump facts.  This can make for confusion and in some cases lead to roaring farce.  More worryingly, it has lead to people losing their jobs, Jordan Peterson for one, because what they might say could offend the feelings of people who believe a different truth.

The trouble with believing ‘my’ truth is that sooner or later I will come up with people who are convinced by a different truth and then all hell can break lose.

The Duchess of Sussex illustrated this beautifully during her interview with Oprah Winfrey.  She told Oprah she and Harry had been married three days before the official wedding, by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

She wasn’t lying.  That was ‘her’ truth and she sincerely believed it.  She is a shy, private person and she couldn’t bear the thought of exchanging her marriage vows in front of millions throughout the world on TV.  So she asked Archbishop Welby if she and Harry could have a private ceremony, in the garden of their home, away from even the prying eyes of the staff.

The trouble was, that statement, like the official wedding, was made in front of a global audience. Many of the people watching knew that, at the very simplest, an Anglican wedding needs five people — the couple, the priest and two witnesses.  The witnesses can be anyone, unknown but willing people passing in the street, but they must be in attendance, to sign the register and legalise the ceremony.  Oh, and it has to be on licensedpremises!

The statement wasn’t really a lie; she just mis-spoke.  That is bound to happen often when ‘my’ truth gets muddled up with ‘your’ truth.  The important thing is that Meghan and Harry were legally married in a sacred place by a properly ordained minister before two witnesses, the bride’s mother and the Prince of Wales.

Pilate would probably have been perfectly satisfied with that outcome.  No need for any hand washing.

Tomorrow is Good Friday.  Many Christians will spend at least an hour in church, meditating, reflecting and praying.  That will be a golden opportunity to ponder on how closely our own truths correspond with God’s eternal truths.

Have a very happy Easter.