The Smoking Gun

Distracted by football finals fever it’s easy to forget the troubles of the Anglican Church, and one of its Australian chiefs, Peter Jensen. First there was the story about the Dean of Newcastle and his brothers-in-Christ having group sex sessions with children.

Then Peter Jensen weighed into the debate about gay health. He rose to support Jim Wallace. A man whose antipathy to same sex attracted people is on record, (he once advocated expelling gay kids from school).

Wallace has long warned of the dangers of the ‘gay agenda’, and the threat gays and lesbians pose to the traditional family, society, and even human civilisation. Wallace argued that being gay is a greater health risk than smoking and then instead of proposing to tackle gay and lesbian health issues, he proposed apologising to smokers.

Peter Jensen, who is neither a statistician nor a doctor, seemingly couldn’t locate a current or reliable survey on which to base his assertions, that being gay is a health risk leading to lower life expectancy. Both Jensen and Wallace relied on ancient and discredited research done by a far-right Christian group in the US, which in pursuance of its agenda surveyed a small sample of newspaper obituaries in San Francisco at the height of the AIDS pandemic.

Which, as one commentator explained, is much like evaluating the life expectancy of white European males in the middle of World War Two, then extrapolating the results. It’s junk science.

This sadly is a familiar refrain from His Grace, the Archbishop. It comports closely with the Politics of Disgust. It dehumanises the opponent, filling the reader with fear and revulsion; it paints ‘the other’ as disease carriers, as lepers, as impure and sick and filthy. It’s an old ploy. The Nazis did it to the Jews, in the name of Aryan Purity. White Protestant Christians did it throughout Apartheid to black, brown and Asian people. I know. I grew up with it. It was a crime that history will burn onto that branch of Christianity, like a brand.

Jensen appears to hide his agenda (of denigrating the right of same-sex attracted people to be treated with equality and dignity) by adding that he wants to receive these people with compassion and love. I’m reasonably confident that love and compassion like that, same-sex attracted people don’t need. In fact, in a secular state, where most Churches are in terminal decline, it’s difficult to understand why his views should extend beyond his flock? If two people are in love and for example wish to be married, and are not members of his Diocese, increasingly far removed as it is from the rest of the world-wide Anglican Church, one may well ask what that has to do with Peter Jensen?

Realising that his remarks would conjure up a storm, Jensen tried to play the victim. He warned us that the politically correct might try to silence him. All he was asking for was a sensible reasoned debate, he said, but he feared he’d be told to keep quiet. Would he fear a negative reaction if his views were genuinely compassionate and genuinely reasoned, based on the best and most up to date research science has to offer?

I suspect that Archbishop Jensen knows in his heart his views do not stem from love and compassion. If they did, would he not have dismissed Wallace’s analogy as nonsensical? How is smoking and being same-sex attracted related? Outback Aboriginal communities probably have higher morbidity rates than smokers. Should we apologise to smokers for that too? Or would any reasonable person’s response be ‘but how does that solve the problems facing Aboriginal people, or for that matter smokers?’

I suspect Archbishop Jensen may have seen an opportunity in the controversy surrounding Wallace’s remarks to malign same sex attracted people, and simply couldn’t resist – not even long enough to google Jim Wallace’s junk science claims to see if they were vaguely correct.

Christopher Hitchens’ observation on religion is, I think, valid: ‘possessed of ignorance, allied to tribalism, bigotry and intolerance, and hostile to free enquiry.’ To which I would add, as it relates to Jensen’s Church, and in light of his brothers-in-Christ’s penchant for having sex with kids, bereft of even a molecule of moral authority.

Peter, perhaps even more dangerous than being gay, or a smoker, or even a gay smoker, is being a child in your Church. Why don’t you sort that out first?