One of my recent blogs was to do with a subject that particularly interests me for reasons I went into, i.e. that of culture wars, the outcome of which has profound implications for us all, even though I am conscious that many, even among those who might mostly agree with me, do not share those same concerns. I had no doubt then there will continue to be developments and so it turned out.
One of my friends commenting on what I wrote asked how this related to the subject of British values and the relationship British values has with Christian values. I pointed him to my two earlier postings on the subject. Besides giving my views on British values, I reflected given we are in a culture war that unless there is a winner it was going to be difficult to reach a broad consensus on what these are but one thing I did feel strongly was concerning the government’s desire to define and promote these, that they had disqualified themselves from doing so. As for the relationship between British and Christian values, even if we were to hark back to an imaginary golden age when there was a strong Christian consensus and particular store was placed on things like duty, diligence, deferred gratification etc. at best British values would be a pale reflection of what I believe Christian values ought to be.
Something often cropping up when looking at the subject of culture wars is LBGT issues. Related to this is how these are presented in the school curriculum, noting the present government’s desire to promote British values in schools, which depending on how one couch it is particularly about accepting people who hold different views etc. It also seems that more often than not where one stands on the “is gay ok” question often determines where one is and how one is going to fare in the culture wars. Having gone from a general consensus of “gay is not ok” when I was young, to “gay is ok” now, one might predict what the answer is going to be. Recently there was a case (e.g. see here) of a mother who objected to the imposition of an LBGT week at her daughters school. One report begins: “A mother’s homophobic rant online about a school “trying to force” LGBT awareness on children has publicly backfired”.
Most of the other news reporting was more sympathetic toward the school than to the mother. A more sympathetic to mother report was from Christian Concern under the title: “School tells pupils to wear rainbow badge”. It starts: “A mother has spoken out on Facebook about the imposition of ‘LGBT’ week at her daughter’s school. Anna Erickson-Hull posted the comment after her daughter, Lily, reported that she was told to wear a rainbow badge or “sit detention”. “You cannot force this filth on children…It is not lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender week in my house we will be serving the Lord as usual and NOT promoting sin so KS High School, you can keep your abomination badge”, she wrote”.
The school responded with a video titled “Pupils and teachers at King Solomon High School respond to a recent facebook attack on LGBT Week” stating: “LGBT Week has given the students an chance to understand the wider issues of bullying and how important it is that we treat each individual with respect. The society we live in is very diverse and we have spent the week widening the students’ awareness of all the implications surrounding bullying and the severe consequences of bullying. Students had the privilege of taking part in an assembly lead by a guest speaker and then they produced anti-bullying posters taking into consideration what they learnt in the assembly. We hope that this has shown the students how important it is to treat everyone, regardless of race, colour,sexuality or religion with the respect they deserve!”.
It would be tempting for me to wade in with an opinion. I will try to refrain from doing so aware this is a subject where my readers have strongly held and widely differing views. I have discussed these in detail in the past (e.g. see here) and, as always, I say read what I have written first and then come back to me. While I am not exactly middle of the road in my views, I do try to sympathetically see all sides. There is first the matter of establishing what happened and what exactly was being taught. For example, it appears the school denied it insisted pupils had to wear an “LBGT” badge. If I were a parent, I would strongly object if my child had to wear something that went against my beliefs. I would also be uncomfortable if my child were given only the gay is ok narrative and not told there are some, including interestingly those of the religion the school in question (Jewish) follows, that would say gay is not ok.
Where I would seek common ground is in our recognising we live in a pluralistic society and there is a case for building a platform around presenting all the things the school aspires to, e.g. encouraging tolerance and understanding and preventing bullying (e.g. toward gay people, and their feeling isolated). I should add though that all bullying is unacceptable, including toward those who hold traditional religious views and that too should be reinforced. As I say, we are in a culture war, and while I would have approached things quite differently to the mother in question, I fear her sincerely and in the main correctly held views were not being respected anywhere near enough by the school and what they were trying to do was well intended but it lacked balance.