Much was said of Belfast ‘Pastor’ James McConnell’s recent anti-Islamic comments:
First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson was drawn into the row when he gave his backing to the Pastor’s remarks and said he would not trust Muslims involved in violence or those devoted to Sharia law but would “trust them to go to the shops” for him.
On Saturday evening on our Twitter page, we posted a link to another of the Pastor’s sermons in which he denounced homosexuals and the “effiminate” as “perverts” and that “two lesbians living together are not a family. They are sexual perverts playing let’s pretend”.
The comments prompted local journalist Lyra McKee to post an impassioned tweet and a follow-up blog which has garnered an amazing response on Twitter including a retweet from the ‘Queen of Ireland’ herself, Panti Bliss.
We asked Lyra to explain her motivation for writing the blog:
I wrote it because after hearing Pastor McConnell’s comments all the shame I felt as a 14 year old kid came rushing back. I still find it hard to talk about this stuff because the first 20 years of my life were spent being ashamed of this “thing”. That doesn’t go away overnight. I was writing it partly to reassure myself, to remind myself that it did get better and is so much better than 14 year old me could ever have imagined. Sometimes, I think that 14 year old is still in there and she’s still scared.
I also wrote it – again, partly- because my stomach turned at the thought of some 14 year now listening to it and thinking, “I’m better off dead because everyone’s going to hate me after I tell them my secret.” But the main thing that drove me to write it was seeing people I love, who are currently struggling to come out, react to McConnell’s words. They were angry and hurt and sick with fear. They’re already dealing with so much turmoil in their lives and then they had to listen to this. I couldn’t bear that. I had to do something. Love is the most powerful thing in the world and when you love someone, you’ll go through fire for them. Remember that if you’re afraid of telling the people you love who you are. If they really love you, they won’t care. I think the love and support I received really helped them and I’d liked to say a huge thank you to everyone who tweeted support – you weren’t just helping me that day, you were helping people I love deeply.I think the local press don’t care because being homophobic is one of the last acceptable prejudices. It’s accepted that racism is disgusting – if you call a racist a racist, they’ll reply: “No I’m not!” The label “homophobe” does not have the same weight or sting to it. Yet it should. I respect Christians and I can understand the conflict they have on this issue. If someone says to me, “Lyra, I’m sorry but I can’t support equal marriage because my interpretation of Scripture says I shouldn’t”, I can respect that because we live in a democratic society and a supposedly free one. What I cannot respect is hurtful language or my rights being taken away. Having the option to marry someone I love is not going to affect anyone’s life but my own. You will still be able to live by your morals and I’ll be able to live by mine. We cannot say we live in a free and democratic society when one group decides to use their weight as the majority to deny the rights of the minority.
Tomorrow Lyra is scheduled to appear on the Stephen Nolan show. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Robinson or any of the other politicians who attend Pastor McConnell’s Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle are as quick to defend him on this occasion.