Yesterday, I got contacted by three vicars about the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe.
Maggy Whitehouse is a former BBC journalist and Funny Women finalist, described by one head of BBC Religion & Ethics as ‘terrifying’… Ravi Holy is a former Satanist, now a regular on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought; Kate Bruce is a former crematorium worker, now a chaplain somewhere so important that she’s not allowed to say where.
And one was expelled from the Brownies for cheating on her Housework badge. I don’t know which, but suspect it was not Satanic Ravi.
Well, OK, mea culpa, I told a fib… Forgive me Lord… I was only contacted by one vicar – Maggy Whitehouse.
I wrote a couple of blogs about her back in June last year
Yesterday, the message from her read:
If anyone at the Fringe is LGBTQ and thinks they might get any hassle from stupid religious types (though Edinburgh at the Fringe is generally lovely), Ravi Holy, Kate Bruce and I are the three vicars from White Collar Comedy, performing there this year, 1st-10th August.
We are all three 100% allies of the LGBTQ community and we would all be very willing to act as a “don’t even think about it” bodyguard force for you if you think it might help. We can also out-quote scripture to any fundamentalist twat. Then, at the very least, you could say: “Would you like to speak to my vicar about this?”
Both Ravi and I have gay daughters and we think it’s REALLY important if vicars are going to the Fringe to nail our colours to the mast.
I wanted to know more…
This morning she told me…
I went to the Fringe two years ago in a rainbow clerical shirt and I was amazed and touched at how many people from the LGBTQ community stopped me in the street and said: “Are you really a vicar?” They were so chuffed to see open support when there’s so often badly-researched religious prejudice.
Christianity began as a faith for the rejected, the poor, the slaves, the women and all the people who, in those days, didn’t fit in. It should be a place of love and safety for those who don’t fit in today.
Jesus never once condemned homosexuality, St. Paul’s writings equated it with gossip and being rude to your parents (and who hasn’t done those?) and, anyway, he was talking about the Roman custom of male rape as a power game, not two loving people in a one-to-one relationship.
Where Christianity has gone so badly wrong over the centuries (as we three agree) is by becoming a religion of power and war. That was never Jesus’ message. Trouble is, it’s far easier to worship him (which he never asked us to do) than it is to follow him (which he did ask us to do).
Ravi and I both have daughters who are gay so, yes, it is personal.
We are quite happy to quote the hell out of scripture to anyone who wants to have a go at the LGBTQ community and we really want everyone at the Fringe to know that, if they need help, support or a good scriptural rant, we are there for them.
Obviously we’re not superheroes and we can’t fly directly to help but, if anyone is upset or made to feel they don’t belong, we’ll do all we can to remedy that situation, including – if possible – finding the protagonist and having a quiet, authoritative word.
Contact points? You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
UK mobile is 07799-761999 and texts would be by far the best way to contact.
“I suppose,” I told Maggy, “you had better also plug your show White Collar Comedy…”
It’s mainly about the ridiculous things that happen to vicars, from being asked to do a wedding dressed as Elvis or a funeral dressed as a pink fairy (and that’s just Ravi…) to…
…well, Kate has a lot of material about nuns and knickers…
and I re-translate the Bible for the digital age, having Moses clicking on Buzzfeed for the Ten Commandments and selfies of the free Fish McFillet at the Galilee… and I mess about with unicorns.
Then there’s the weird stuff people say to vicars too…
“I can’t hear you properly. Your lips are too thin. You need louder lipstick…”
“Why did you speak out against Hippocrates? What’s he ever done to you?…”
“We need a small group for cat lovers…”