Weighing in on John Lewis “girls and boys” clothing range

One story that’s hit the news in the past few days is that John Lewis, a British retailer, has produced a line of gender-neutral clothes for children. I don’t shop at John Lewis myself, but full respect for the move: It’s a great reaction to the growing concerns that childrens’ fashions are still rooted in anachronistic stereotypes.

The reaction in both the press and on social media has been quite off-balance. With few exceptions, the reports I’ve read have a very noticeable lean towards the negative: The Mirror and the Huffington Post are the only reports I’ve seen with any kind of balance or neutrality.

Yes, there’s been a lot of “outrage”, “backlash” and calls for a “boycott”, but it looks to me like a complete over-reaction:

  1. There was no indication of a “median” reaction so it’s unclear what proportion of people reacted positively or neutrally.
  2. With some comments, it was doubtful they’d even read (or understood) the whole story, given how many believed this was a plot to put dresses on boys. All John Lewis did was remove the gendered stereotypes and produce a range of clothes that could be worn by both boys and girls. If there was no demand from parents, there would be no supply.
  3. There were some comments stating that this would cause mental health problems in the future. These are only predictions, not facts, and they didn’t come from people with a background in mental health or child psychology. The demand for childrens’ clothing without stereotypes is relatively new, so without any case studies, the future effects cannot be predicted with any kind of accuracy.
  4. Some of the comments published came from middle-aged people who are less likely to be buying clothes for children, but more likely to hold conservative views on gender.

I’ve also noticed some of the logical fallacies at play – I’ve loved learning about these. The examples are not real quotes, but they are based on common comments and tweets:

  • Appeal to Tradition: “we’ve had gendered clothing for years and it’s never done us any harm”. While that may be true, it does not imply that non-gendered clothing must be harmful.
  • Red Herring: “But there are children starving and North Korea might be trying to nuke us”. A distraction away from the topic of discussion into something less relevant.
  • Appeal to Common Sense: “It’s common sense that boys and girls are different, therefore they need different clothes”. Yes, they are different, but that doesn’t mean they’re polar opposites.
  • Appeal to Popularity: “The majority of people won’t buy this, so why bother?”. The majority of people live on land, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a profit selling house-boats.
  • Appeal to Fear: “If you put your son in these clothes, they’ll get bullied and picked on”. It’s also possible that they won’t.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears to me that all of this negative reaction is down to that last one: fear. More specifically, fear of change; I’ve seen this recurring in whatever social subject I research.

Change is inevitable: with every generation comes new technologies, new possibilities, new outlooks. Our children are both the workers and the customers of the future, so businesses look to them to keep pace with the competition and ensure their survival; that’s exactly what John Lewis has always done. The only way to stop change altogether is to stop everyone from having children!

This is not about giving into political correctness either because your freedom of choice remains unaffected. Billions of people worldwide have Facebook accounts, but nobody is forcing you to sign up for one; likewise, you still have a choice what you clothe your children in – nobody is saying you must buy only unisex clothing. If they retracted the line following the “outrage”, minimalising the offence caused to conservatives, that would be giving in to political correctness.

There are those who say you get more conservative and right-wing as you get older, but I can’t see that happening to me. I refuse to be one of those frightened old men, clinging on to nostalgia. Life experience gets you so far, but it doesn’t imply greater wisdom or superiority over younger people, nor does it provide an excuse to stop learning.

Children live in the now, and I think that should continue throughout your life. You can learn from the past, but you can’t live in it; you also can’t predict the future, but you can influence it.

Longing for the past or fearing the future only makes you miserable in the present.

Do fundamentalists dream of a sex-segregated society?

I’ve been re-reading some of my older posts, and had a bit of a lightbulb moment. When I read the posts about how the late Baptist minister Jack Hyles went on at length about the way men and women should walk, talk and dress, coupled with the current resistance to (or rejection of) trans rights, it got me thinking:

Perhaps their dream is to implement some form of sex segregation?

In the sermon that I (somewhat mockingly) tore apart, Jack Hyles talked ferociously against what he dubbed “the unisex movement”: how men were growing their hair long, women were starting to wear trousers and both sexes were starting to look, and behave, alike. This was back in 1972 – the year the world stood awestruck at the androgynous wonders of David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust. Hyles was preaching that men and women should walk, talk, look and sit differently to each other – his church even ran groups teaching them “the correct ways” – but why was it so important that men and women be so easily identified as such?

My guess is that, as the books of the Bible were written for a time and place where men were powerful and women were property, he saw this as God’s required social model. With men and women becoming more conscious of their equality, he probably saw this as a mass rebellion against the divine.

Under such a strictly-segregated society, the definitions of “male” and “female” must be very rigid and detailed. I presume that by ingraining women to walk and sit in a “correct” way, any man would be able to spot from a distance any women trying to sneakily infiltrate their positions of power. Likewise, the women would be able to spot any roving males who were, shall we say, up to no good.

With Hyles stating that he had rule over his congregation, I’m very sure this kind of society would be much his liking, although I don’t know whether that would make him incredibly old-fashioned or just hungry for power!

Of course, with the trans communities becoming more and more visible, they represent a huge spanner in the works: not so much a convergence of the sexes but a glorious, true-colour, high-definition replacement for what was once a monochromatic gender spectrum.

When your aim is to segregate society into a one-dimensional binary, the addition of extra dimensions makes such a task exponentially more complex. After all, what do you do with those who have completed reassignment surgeries? It’s a lose-lose situation: you’re granting privileges to either women who were born male, or men who were born female. It would not surprise me at all if the plan-of-action involved mobilising their “army of righteousness” to lobby sympathetic government representatives into having all trans people sectioned.

Ultimately, I think the desire for segregation, and the rejection of LGBT+ rights, comes down to just one thing: sex. The survival of the human race is dependent on procreation, so you drive a huge religion-sized wedge along the lines of child-bearing ability and keep the potential mates together. I believe this is why there are still groups dismissive of gay and trans rights in order to protect the role of “the family”. Taking into account how much we know about sexuality, our advances in medicine and our improvements to both pre- and post-natal care, I can’t see how anyone within the broad LGBT+ community could be a threat to the survival of our species with infant mortality rates as low as they are.

If I’m right, and that is truly what they dream about, then to quote the words of Aerosmith:

Dream on!

Ruffling Feathers

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Looks like I’ve ruffled a feather or two. Apparently, my wife’s grandmother is still going on about my denim skirt from last Sunday.

She’s concerned for the children.

She need not be worried: if you want to shock and confuse children these days, all you have to do is disconnect the router and give them a whole hour without the Internet!

We went down into the town centre earlier this afternoon. With the weather looking rather changeable, I opted for jeans rather than a jean-skirt. I made the right choice. No matter how confident I felt, I’m still in the early stages, and with town as busy as it was, I’d have had to stick very closely to my family. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable breaking off from the group to drop shopping bags back at the car.

There will come a time, but for now, I need to choose my battles wisely.

The Normality of Niqabs and Drag Queens

One of my friends shared a video on Facebook concerning reactions to an image that went viral. The image showed two people sitting on the Subway in New York: one of them a Muslim woman in a niqab, the other a drag queen. The video interviewed a small handful of New Yorkers to gain their reaction to the photo, and they all seemed rather blasé about it. They’d lived in New York long enough to know how diverse its citizens are, and this was nothing out of the ordinary.

what_liberals_wantThe video also showed the conservative reaction via a tweet that showed the picture with a heading of “This is the future that liberals want”. Can’t argue with that – two people sitting peacefully side-by-side on the Subway… who doesn’t want that?

Okay, I get the idea that they were stating that niqabs and drag queens would not be welcome in a conservative future. I can also understand why, to a certain degree, but am still confused as to how they can harp on about their freedoms whilst simultaneously protesting others. Why are they free to wear a crucifix around their neck if they want to, but the niqab should be banned even for those women who choose to wear it? I can see how a drag queen can confuse those who see the world in monochrome, but if they’re out having fun and harming nobody in the process, what’s the big issue?

Before anybody says “it’s not normal”, I’d argue that there is no such thing as “normal” when it comes to people – our collective diversity is both “normal” and “natural”. There are statistical likelihoods, but that is all. For example, I am one of less than 0.004% of Brits that bought Steven Wilson’s latest single – does that mean my behaviour is abnormal, or am I just expressing my taste in music? 90% of the UK population live outside of London – does that mean all Londoners are “weird”, or is it just a meaningless statistic?

Being part of a minority does not imply you’re some freak of nature – the fact that you can think independently shows just how natural you are

Besides, aren’t we all part of at least one statistical minority, and if so, why are some so intolerant of those minorities that they have to abuse or lobby against them?

UPDATE: I’ve just found out that the drag queen in the image goes by the name of Gilda Wabbit. When everything is so Disney or Dreamworks, it’s good to see some love for the old Looney Tunes classics!

I didn’t know what the term “Special Snowflake” meant… now I think Katie Hopkins is one!

Two words I often see hurled around on the internet form the term “Special Snowflake”. The term gets flung around whenever I watch YouTube videos on gender issues – the people in those videos tend to be in their teens or twenties, and the comments tend to come from more conservatively-minded people who dismiss their views as ‘unimportant’; that may be true on a global scale, but we all have different personal priorities.

I might just be showing my age or ignorance here, but I had no idea what one of them was. Of course, I had to go and look it up.

Based on the definitions I read, and the people often referred to as so-called “Special Snowflakes”, I can’t help thinking it’s a rather loaded, pejorative definition that doesn’t so much describe someone’s attitudes, but amplifies them. From what I read, Special Snowflakes:

  • Are ‘difficult’ people
  • See themselves as unique
  • Demand attention but won’t earn it
  • Have an overblown sense of entitlement
  • Are offended very easily
  • Often complain about being oppressed or victimised

Is anybody really like this, or is it just an overblown caricature used to fling at the younger generation? Are these attention-seeking ‘snowflakes’ drawing attention only to themselves, or are they using their own experiences to raise awareness of something important to many others? Has anybody even tried listening to and empathising with them to understand the nature of their offence or victimisation, or have they just dismissed it as “complaining”?

However, based on those definitions, I’d argue that one prime example of a “Special Snowflake” is conservative tabloid columnist Katie Hopkins. I know she’s not the kind of person the term usually gets applied to, but based solely on her public profile, she fits most of the definitions quite neatly:

  • She’s not been known to back down from her position, even when presented with verified evidence to the contrary; she’s also not been known to apologise whenever such comments cause mass offence. I’d say that blinkered stubbornness would make her quite a ‘difficult’ person.
  • Her extremely conservative views can be construed as an attempt to appear unique and special – particularly as they provide that ‘love-to-hate’ persona that perpetuates her car-crash celebrity.
  • Looking at her history, it appears she’s not done much to earn the attention she gets. Oxford University wouldn’t accept her, she was not commissioned to join the army due to an epileptic seizure, and prior to her public appearance on a reality TV show, she worked for the Met Office. Where’s her talent? Where’s her expertise? What does she provide to the public besides outspoken opinions?
  • As for being easily offended – in 2013, she admitted on daytime TV to a dislike of “lower class” given names and that she’d prevent her children from playing with anyone who had one. In addition to her rather callous comments about migrants, refugees and Muslims, I’d say she’s offended by anyone who is not of the same social class as herself and is probably upset at her tax contributions being used to provide services and assistance for these people.

I reckon you’d have to be a really unstable and inflexible person in order to meet the criteria of a true “Special Snowflake”.

In fact, come to think of it, it is possible that it is those who use the term to demean others who are the real Special Snowflakes. Think about it!

Meet Brother Hyles Part 2: Walk This Way!

Ladies, Gentlemen and everybody in-between… I am proud to present… more from Fundamentalist Christianity’s answer to Trinny and Susannah… PASTOR JACK HYLES!

In the first part, we learned that:

1. Pastor Hyles doesn’t like men with long hair
2. Pastor Hyles doesn’t like women wearing trousers
3. Pastor Hyles thinks that those who do are going to hell

I pick things up at the second part of his sermon, entitled “The Devil is using long hair on men to break down the barrier between the sexes.”

In the first part, I could respond to some of the sections quite seriously but, in the second half of the sermon, he goes way off the chart so what some of my responses lack in length, they make up for in flippancy.


Marshall McLuhan asked theoretically, “In what may seem a ludicrous statement, they are sending a message to all who will listen: ‘We are no longer afraid to display what you may call feminine. We are willing to reveal that we have feelings and weaknesses'”

Yes. We all do. It’s part and parcel of being human. We all have strengths and weaknesses, even Pastor Hyles, but we play to our strengths. I have quite a strong sense of detail and logic, but I don’t have an abundance of confidence and charisma. That’s why I work as an Analyst and not a Sales Rep.

“Well,”” somebody says, “what about Jesus? He had long hair.” You’ve got to be kidding! “Well,” you say, “in all the pictures I’ve seen of Him, He had long hair.” What kind of camera was used to take that picture? Was it a Kodak? You know where we got those pictures? We got them from sissy artist who had long hair. If I drew a picture of Jesus, He would be balding!

Nobody really knows what Jesus looked like. He may have had long hair, he may have been balding, he may have had short hair. We’re in the realms of Schrödinger’s Haircut, where Jesus has every conceivable hairstyle… even a Skullet. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. Nil points all round.

In Asia, men hold hands. Why? They do it because pagan religion is in Asia.

No, they do so because it’s how their culture expresses friendliness – just because it translates into something else in America does not change its original context. Also, congratulations on potentially offending almost half a billion people. Have you met Boris Johnson, by any chance?

In Russia, men kiss each other on the mouth! Boy! I’d go to the electric chair first!

Again, culture. That’s another 70 million people potentially offended. I’d recommend you stay out of Russia but, given that this is 1972, you probably weren’t planning a visit.

EDIT: Hyles’ ultimate fear:

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I was watching a basketball game the other day. The announcer came on, and he was a doll! You men who cover up you ears with your hair, you’re pitiful! It just curls around so only your beautician knows! Ladies, if your boy doesn’t want to show his ears, cut them off!

So, by that logic, if the boy doesn’t want to show his doodle, that should be cut off too? Wouldn’t that make him even more of a woman? Come on, Hyles – show some consistency man!

You high school girls ought to go home tonight, take every pair of slacks you own, and destroy them. A lot of them would if you mothers would keep you noses out of their business in that respect.

Being a bit paternalistic, aren’t we? I think someone’s taking a bit too much interest in the teenage girls’ wardrobes.

Let me tell you one reason why I’m against a female wearing slacks. A female in slacks can sit like a man with one leg up on the other knee, and they do it. No female ought to sit like that!

Show me the passage in the Bible that explicitly tells women how to sit.

Go on.

There isn’t one, is there?

Thought so.

Do you know what? We ought to have more girls at this meeting on Thursday night to learn how to be gracious and feminine than we have at any other activity in this church, apart from soul winning. You mothers ought to insist that your daughters get up here and let someone teach them how to walk and sit.

In other words, you want girls to come to what is, in effect, an obedience school. You’re equating teenage girls with unruly dogs – you know that, right?

I go to Hammond Baptist High School sometimes an, even though the skirts are long enough, you can see as much when the girl sits down as you can see when a girl is wearing a miniskirt. Why? They have not been taught how to sit.

How about we teach Pastors not to look up girls’ skirts when they sit down?! No wonder rape culture is still an issue.

In this class, on Thursday nights, they have the girls bring an encyclopaedia. Do you think they study that encyclopaedia? No. They put it on their heads and the girls learn to walk like girls. (Any boy who can take three steps without dropping is not right with God!) A girl ought to know how to walk like a girl. Girls are not “one of the guys.” Don’t walk like one!

Girls are also not robots, yet it sounds like you’re training them to be one.

Walk this way! Talk this way! Hey… there’s a hit song in there somewhere…

Bugger, Aerosmith beat me to it.

(EDIT: I can access the whole of Wikipedia on my phone. With my phone on top of my head, I was able to take more than 3 steps before it fell off. So does that mean I walk like a girl? To be honest, I couldn’t give a rats arse if it does.)

You say, “Brother Hyles, I’ll just pack up and go some place where a preacher doesn’t preach like this.” Well, good! It will keep us from borrowing two and three quarters of a million dollars. You can do it, but you know that the unisex crowd is pleased with your trousers. It’s time we had an old-fashioned altar call about women wearing britches, just like we do about drinking and smoking and gambling and everything else.

And you’ll be preaching to an old-fashioned congregation that, in time, will dwindle into nothing. If the Great Commission calls on you to spread the Gospel to all corners of the earth, why are you so intent on pushing people away from it?

While I’m at it, let me just pay my respects to the women’s liberation movement. I think everyone in it is right.

Wait. WHAT?!

They’re not women; they ought to be liberated! I think they’re right; they’re not Miss or Mister or Mrs. They’re just Ms.!

Oh, you were demeaning women again. This is becoming a recurring thing.

Then you fellows, for Pete’s sake, or Harry’s sake, or anybody’s sake, don’t walk like a girl- swinging your hips and being prissy as you walk! If I walked like that, I would go down to some Texas ranch and ride the wildest Brahma bull they had. You say, “I might get thrown off!” That’s exactly what I had in mind! You say, “He might stick his horns right through my gizzard!” You’ve got my second idea too, but at least I would come back a man! I would rather my boy have a bull’s horn through his gizzard and bury him tomorrow than for him to priss across the platform like Miss America.

I could hear through the channels of history the collective relief of all the women in the congregation as he lays into the men for once.

So, basically, what you’re saying is that in order to be a REAL MAN, you have to be BRAVE… and that bravery should come in the form of RECKLESS STUPIDITY. Tell me this, if America needs REAL MEN, then why are you trying to get them to come within an inch of killing themselves just to prove that they are?!

I’m teaching grown men how to walk. I’m teaching them that a man doesn’t lean back when he walks; a man bounces when he walks and walks like he’s going somewhere. I wouldn’t have to teach them if you moms and dads would teach them when they were kids. Cut their hair! Take the make-up off of their faces! Take your dresses off their bodies! Put some blue jeans on them! Let them get in a fight every once in a while! Make boys out of them, and I won’t have to try to correct them when they grow up!

If he seriously wants men to be strong, brave, decisive and dominant – what’s he going to do when someone squares up to him, decides he’s having no more of this crap and tells Brother Hyles EXACTLY where he can stick his walking lessons!


To be honest, I’m glad I’m now at the end of that sermon. That was gruelling! Obviously, I never knew Pastor Hyles, but based on this one sermon, I don’t think I’d want to.

It sounds like he has absolutely no respect for other people, as if he seriously wants to put hard limits on their individual expression so they conduct themselves the way he wants them to – if this was any random person in the street, they’d be brushed aside or dismissed, so he claims God’s authority for himself and uses the threat of damnation to scare his congregation into conformity. Well, the less critically-thinking ones at least. The man sounds like an absolute control freak! He told the women they were behaving like men, the men they were behaving like women and the parents that they weren’t doing a good enough job – pardon my French, but I’d have stood up and told him to mind his own business and go raise his own fucking kids!

It’s worth noting that, throughout the whole sermon, Jesus was only mentioned 5 times. Four of those times were when he was slating the “sissy, long-haired, effeminate, homosexual” artists who painted pictures of Jesus with long hair. That leads me to believe that his sermon was based more on his political beliefs than his spiritual beliefs. The Jesus I read about several years ago was far more concerned about people’s hearts than their clothes.

I’d even go as far as saying he’s afraid. Very afraid. What of, I can’t be too sure. It’s a bit concerning that he spent a portion of the second part sticking his nose into girls’ wardrobes and looking up their skirts to see if they’re “sitting correctly”. And why is he so afraid of men showing even the slightest bit of effeminacy? My guess is that he’s no different from any other ultra-conservative: keep the nuclear family sacrosanct so that more people get married and have children. There’s a 50/50 chance they’ll have a boy and, if they do, buy him some toy soldiers and teach him how to be strong and tough. Got to replenish the army somehow, haven’t we? Especially as, at the time, the US had sacrificed so many families’ sons in Vietnam.

I’m sorry, but just don’t get the “fundamentalist” way of thinking. From this angle, it looks comparable to a factory farm where people are caged, confined and fed a special diet so that they emerge with the most desirable attributes. But like a battery hen, there is no chance at a full life – you’re bound by what is and isn’t written in a centuries-old collection of books because the fear of eternal torment prevents you from taking a gamble on a less-literal interpretation. When I studied the Bible, I always saw the Old Testament as the historical context for the “life manual” of the Gospels. I cannot say with any certainty that Jesus existed and the records in the Gospels are historically accurate, but even if that Jesus exists only on paper, the teachings of that literary Jesus are still highly significant and relevant today. If there is a god (again, I’m uncertain yet open-minded) and Jesus is wholly representative of that god, it gives life a much fuller purpose than the god described by Pastor Hyles.

One thing I am certain though: whether or not a Heaven is waiting for us after death, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t create one while we’re still alive.

Meet Brother Hyles Part 1: God wants REAL MEN.

I was in major need of a laugh, so I went back and had a look at the Divided by Truth website that I talked about earlier – in particular, the page that equated Feminism with Satanism. I’m not really going to comment on that article in particular (I’m still seething at the sexist “Mack Truck” comment) but, at the bottom of the article is a link to a sermon by Pastor Jack Hyles decrying the whole “unisex” movement.

As the page contains a transcription and not a recording of the sermon, I’m going to take it that the sermon actually took place and was not just fabricated and posted on the website posthumously. From the plethora of exclamation marks within the text, I’m also going to take it that there was a lot of shouting coming from the pulpit.

I’m going to go through the sermon, much in the way I did with their “kilts are for sinners” article but, as it’s quite long, I’m going to go through it in two parts – much like the sermon itself – and focus on some of the more “absurdly alarmist” points.


One social expert has said, “By the year 2000, Father will do the dishes and wash the diapers while Mom washes the car and mows the lawn.”

I’m guessing this quotation is meant to imply that, by the turn of the century, traditional gender roles will have swapped around. They haven’t – they’re still the same old-fashioned gender roles. The only real difference is that very few people actually pay them any attention.

I became a father in 2007, and I have changed my fair share of nappies. Even some of the really nasty ones. I’ve cleaned up almost every kind of fluid my kids have spewed, spilled or excreted over the furniture. I do the washing up, I mow the lawn, I clean the car (well, as we don’t have a driveway or a garage, I take the car to someone who will do a far better job than I can for a few quid), I cook, I clean and I do the ironing.

And so does my wife. It’s called “co-operation”. It’s what married couples do.

When a little boy is born, we let him grow long hair and look like a girl, (now I’m going to make someone mad here) we name him Francis, (and one of the best friends I have in this world is named Francis) we curl his hair and put him in what we call a diaper shirt, (which is no more than a dress) and then we wonder why he turns out to be a sissy! Brother, when a boy gets home from the hospital, put him in blue jeans and cut his hair! If you don’t, he’s going to grow up and look like some of you Samsons sitting here in this room tonight!

For the first 18 months of his life, we let my son’s hair grow long. We never curled his hair (he has my genetics so it’d go that way on its own eventually) nor did we put him in a “diaper shirt”. Having had to attempt to remove my son’s dungarees after a rather nasty nappy, I can see why some parents would put their boys in (ahem) “dresses”.

If my son turns out to be what Brother Hyles so bluntly defines as a “sissy”… great! I’d rather him be an honest, compassionate and sensitive member of society than a brutish, domineering oaf.

I believe that ladies ought to be feminine and sweet and lovely and charming. I believe men ought to be strong and masculine and decisive. I’m opposed to anything that makes a man and a woman act alike, look alike, dress alike, or talk alike.

Okay, fair enough. It’s not my place to tell you what to believe, but you are kind-of describing a fantasy land. If you expect women to repress their negative emotions in order to be that sweet, lovely and charming woman you want them to be, you’re likely creating an emotional time-bomb. When she explodes in front of you and gives you a harsh lesson in what reality is like for a “conservative” woman, you’d be wise not to remind her just how ‘un-lady-like’ it is to have an angry outburst. And what happens to the men who are more creative and intellectual than strong and decisive? One person from history had an idea of what to do with the less-desirable members of society. It wasn’t pretty.

But I am the man about whom Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them that have rule over you.” You’ll be a lot better off to tell your girl she can’t wear her slacks because the preacher says it’s wrong- by the way, it won’t hurt her not to wear them- than if you just go ahead and let her wear them.

If you’re going to give people a list of expected behaviours based on what’s between their legs, you’re wasting your time. Micromanaging children is a futile and completely counter-productive effort: the more you try and control them, the more likely they are to resent and rebel against you. I’ve mentioned before – if you are in a position of authority, you must be able to justify why you hold that authority. The same goes for parents too. If you want your children to obey you, you’ve got to convince them as to why it’s in their best interest to do so. Finally, if you want them to approach God with a pure heart, making them so shit scared of eternal torment is NOT going to achieve that.

I am never purposely unkind to anybody who dresses contrary to the way I preach. But I’ll say this much: You’re going to face God for being a part of the unisex movement just as much as a man who wears makeup.

Somehow I think God has bigger fish to fry than who is and isn’t wearing makeup. Personally, when Eddie Izzard goes to meet his maker, I think said maker is going to be far more interested in his inexhaustible charity work than his shade of lipstick.

You know it’s true that if you’re walking down the sidewalk behind some couples, it’s hard to tell which is the male and which is the female.

Why is it so important that you need to be able to visually identify the sexes of two people YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW!? They’re walking down the street minding their own business – perhaps you should try doing that too.

“Today, mothers continue to work their way steadily back toward babyhood, trying on the looks of baby doll, little soldier doll, and little boy doll.” Let me stop and say a word about this. I don’t mind your boys having little soldiers to play with, but don’t give your boy a doll to play with.

[in sarcastic, mocking tone] Because it’s a sin for boys to learn how to become confident parents! That’s a woman’s jon! Men should be out shooting and killing foreign people and stealing their oil! Pacifism is for sissies!

Ad nauseam.

She goes on to say, “Simultaneously the teenage boy, the source of all this feminine emulation, was revolting against his father in the strongest way he could find to express disapproval- unmasculinity. Ornamented in fancy clothes, the young men now seem to dress as young women, masquerading as boys.” That’s not a Christian person saying that; that is the world saying that men and women dressing alike is part of the unisex movement.

This does make some sense, but as I’ve said before, if you’re more of a dictator than a parent you shouldn’t be surprised that your children turn against you. I’ve heard stories of how children in similar relationships can’t wait to start college/university so they can get away from their fathers’ strict control and constant condemnation.

The fact that celebrities like Mick Jagger and David Bowie were crossing the gender boundary shows how lateral thinking became more liberated during the 60’s and 70’s. They had an air of femininity in their appearance, but you never doubted their masculinity. That post-war generation saw women becoming more independent in their appearance and aspirations – the fact that young males were keen to emulate women’s appearance can be regarded as validating their independence and equality. This effeminacy in men was by no means undesirable – a man in tune with his feminine side (we all have one, however small) was less likely to become an abusive or misogynistic husband.

Girls come to my office in deep trouble, and practically every one who does has been told by her mother or dad, or in some cases by both, “Brother Hyles isn’t God. You don’t have to do everything he says.”

Correct. Brother Hyles is a human being and is as corruptible by “the devil” as everybody else. When I was an active church-goer and Bible-studier, I theorised that if “the devil” is the ultimate trickster and liar, then it’s not improbable for him to sow confusion by pretending to be God. This is why I always felt that, if it wasn’t in the Gospel, it wasn’t a true reflection of God. Even though I no longer identify as a Christian, I still follow the Gospel from a philosophical point of view.

Dr. Ralph Grimson is a clinical professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. School of Medicine; he told the American Medical Association, “I believe one of the reasons that young males and females wear their hair alike and dress alike stems from their fear of the opposite sex.”

I’m beginning to think this whole sermon is a result of Hyles’ own fear of the opposite sex. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for women. Or for men, if I’m honest.

For 14 years and 3 months there has been a man behind this pulpit. I may be mean and stubborn, and I may be bigoted, and I may be right-winged- in fact, I happily plead guilty to all of those things- but there is one thing you have had for all of these 14 years. You’ve had a fellow whose tail you couldn’t twist! This country is in dire need of men!

When you have such a stubborn and inflexible approach to life, you lose the ability and the willingness to move beyond the obstacles in your way. In those 14 years and 3 months, the congregation has moved on with their lives, but Hyles refuses to. Rather than catch up with his congregation, his stubborn and conservative solution is to get everybody else to roll back to a point more suitable to him.

Maybe that’s why, almost 45 years later, his words still sound stubborn, bigoted and right-winged. Throughout the course of the sermon, he has chastised and brow-beaten many of the people present. That was never going to work. If you want people to change, you inspire them… and you can’t inspire people with such hostile negativity.

Back in my Bible study days, I concluded that God doesn’t make mistakes, but challenges. If you believe that God created two sexes, male and female, and that all people are created by God – where does that leave the intersex minority? They’re not mentioned in the Bible anywhere purely because the people of the time would not be able to comprehend the complexities of child development and hormones, but if they’re still God’s creation, where do you stand? Do you twist some OT verses into black-and-white rhetoric like “God created Man and Woman – you’re neither, therefore you must be the work of the devil”, or do you follow Jesus’ commandment to “love one another”? Last time I read that chapter, there weren’t any specifications or conditions.

I don’t believe anybody ought to be a big bully and go around picking fights. I don’t believe you ought to want to fight. But I’ll tell you one thing! I don’t believe a boy ought to open his purse and get out scented tissue to wipe his tears because he is afraid of the big bully in the school!

And finally, something we can both agree on, but also something of a circular argument. If you emphasise to your kids the need to be strong, assertive and dominant, as Brother Hyles commands, then they will practice that dominance and assertion on others – they will become, in effect, bullies. Instil them with confidence and empathy, and they become productive members of society. No bullies and no fighting equals no scented tissues. Job done.

Ironically, by using the threat of eternal torment to scare the congregation into conforming to your world view, I’m afraid that makes you the bully.

“I’m holding a Bible… do as I say!”

With Theresa May blabbing on about how her Christian faith is guiding her Brexit strategy, I started getting a rather horrible image of Religion and Politics becoming as intertwined here as it is over in the US. The 2015 General Election was a bit of an eye-opener for me when I saw a handful of Christians, who had up to that point been very vocal about alleviating poverty, voting Conservative on the grounds that David Cameron was a Christian; completely ignoring (or ignorant of) the statistics showing that Foodbank usage had risen exponentially during his austerity-driven premiership. It highlighted a couple of things to me:

  1. Some Christians will take care of their own before anyone else, regardless of need
  2. Religion can so easily be hijacked

As of the 2011 Census, there were 37.5m Christians in the UK, or approximately 60% of the population. Assuming they’re all practising Christians, how many of them, on hearing Theresa May’s statement, will think either:

  1. “she’s being guided by God, so who am I to interfere?”
  2. “is she really, or is she just saying that?”

In Christian belief, God holds ultimate power and authority, but the word of God is inexplicit and open to interpretation. The two together are incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. Take Leviticus 18:20 (“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination”), combine it with Proverbs 11:19 (“And he who pursues evil will bring about his own death”) and Ezekiel 18:4 (“The soul who sins will die”), coat it in a whole heap of God’s highest authority, and you potentially have someone who believes it’s okay to murder gay people. The commandment of “You shall not murder” is equally inexplicit and will do little to quell such extreme actions – they could still be justified as a form of moral warfare or capital punishment, depending on your interpretation.

Freedom of religion, along with the freedom to hold no religion at all, is a fundamental human right; as religion is personal and religious texts open to interpretation, it is my view that the state should be entirely secular; Government officials are there to serve an entire population, not a selected subset of that population, and therefore should only pass legislation on actual, rather than perceived, immorality.

Take, for example, the oft-reported case of a Christian-run bakery refusing to provide a cake celebrating a gay wedding on the grounds of their religious beliefs. While I believe it is their right to refuse service on what they regard as a moral issue (I’m sure their less-objective competitors agree), the right to refuse service cannot be a one-sided affair. Say, for example, the same Christian couple who ran the bakery went to a catering firm to provide food for a baby’s baptism, only for the caterer to refuse based on their belief that it is immoral for baptism to be forced upon a child by their parents. The couple would have no right to complain or cry discrimination if they enforce their right to moral objection in their own business.

Beliefs are not necessarily facts but, because the Bible lays down God’s authority, such beliefs do become considered as facts. To me, it appears as if you can interpret a few Bible verses a certain way and, just by holding up a copy of the Bible, get others to subscribe to your belief as if it was fact – much like this woman in Target did:

You never see someone holding a Bible aloft and yelling “Jesus tells us in John 13:34 to love one another without condition. I don’t care whether you’re black, white, male, female, gay, straight, cis, trans, Christian, Muslim, animal, vegetable or mineral – I LOVE YOU ALL!!!”.

I have absolutely nothing against anybody using their respective Holy texts to inspire positivity.

So if those were Jesus’ words, and Jesus is God incarnate, and God has absolute authority… why are Christians putting words into God’s mouth and not doing as he commands?

If you absolutely NEED something to hate: hate violence, injustice and ignorance.

The Richmond Park By-Election: Why the “political binary” is losing at its own game

I’ve gone on about the pointlessness of the gender binary in several posts, but reading newspaper articles, and the online comments beneath them, I get the impression that some see political opinion as binary. What is it about the number 2?

On American articles, the most vocal are those in the so-called “alt-right” facing-off against “the left”, or to be more specific, ultra-conservatives against ultra-liberals. I reckon the majority of people, who foster far less extreme political opinions, take one look at the battle taking place and want no part in it. I certainly don’t.

But while the hard-right and the hard-left fight it out amongst themselves under the watch of the world’s media (who just love a sensational story), those in the middle end up going one of two ways: they flock to a third party, or they become disenfranchised.

Yesterday, the UK saw the former in action. After former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith resigned from the Conservative Party to run as an independent, he was defeated in the resulting by-election by Sarah Olney of the Liberal Democrats. In the 2015 General Election, the Lib Dems took quite an electoral beating after five years of cosying up to the Tories in a coalition government, but under new leader Tim Farron, they’re experiencing something of an electoral revival – right under the noses of a media too pre-occupied with Brexit and smearing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

On the political spectrum, I am what’s defined as a “left-libertarian”. On the economic left-right spectrum, I’m a little left of centre. I believe the state should provide essential needs like health, education, defence, law and order, energy and transport (at a push, retail banking), but outside of those core areas, the private sector is free to operate.

On the other authoritarian/libertarian political spectrum, I’m very much on the libertarian side. An efficient police force should not waste resources on “perceived immorality”: if nobody is getting hurt (and, by ‘hurt’ I don’t mean ‘offended’), the police should not be involved. Let them focus on the real criminals.

Homosexuality is a classic example of “perceived immorality” – it offends many with rigidly-conservative religious views, but hurts nobody. What two consenting adults get up to in the bedroom is nobody’s business. And yes, I do believe gay couples should be free to marry and have children: love that strong should be celebrated not denied, and when it comes to raising children, parenting style eclipses parental sexuality. A child is far better off with a loving gay couple than an abusive straight couple.

Such views are too relaxed to generate the strong reactions needed to make them newsworthy in the eyes of our mainstream media. What I’m hoping is that the public are now waking up to the “divide-and-conquer” tactics employed by the government and the media, and realising that there is a third ‘moderate’ option.

I’ve never voted Lib Dem before – I’ve always sided with the Green candidate – but I do agree with a majority of Tim Farron’s policies. While I think Jeremy Corbyn is more likely to become Prime Minister, many Labour MPs are still antagonistic towards him, and the media are quite keen to publish their opinions. If the Lib Dems catch the media and the pollsters off-guard, capitalise on the disarray between the two main parties, and steal the next election: I would not be unhappy.

Unlikely, I know, but anything is possible in this time of political upheaval.

A New Hope

As I awoke this morning, millions of people across America were celebrating as Donald Trump was confirmed as the next President of the US. At the same time, billions of people around the world were pinching themselves, believing they were still in the middle of a rather absurd dream; but beneath the layers of celebration and disbelief, away from the spotlight of the media, many innocent people were frightened.

  • The refugees who yearned for safety feared deportation back to the danger zones.
  • The migrants that left their homes in search of a better life for their families feared ostracism and uncertainty.
  • The LGBTQ communities feared reprisals from conservative Christian groups and the revocation of rights they had fought so hard for.
  • Parents feared for their daughters’ safety, worried that Trump’s sexual attitudes would somehow become legitimized by his election.

I understand people need time to adjust and to come to terms with today’s news: a lot of questions are being asked, but it’s just too soon to get any answers. I don’t want to sound overly-optimistic or offer false hope, but I just want to offer one thing from across the pond.

To put it into Star Wars terms, after last May’s General Election, we reached the end of Episode 3 where Senator Palpatine (Cameron) had been granted executive power over the Senate and formed the Galactic Empire. There is, however, a pocket of resistance that, while small in number, is both highly organised and in possession of a power their opponents dismiss worthless and ineffective.

One of their leaders even looks like a Jedi.

jeremy_corbyn_tolpuddle_2016_1_tightcrop

The Parliamentary Labour Party tried to strike him down, but he came back stronger than they could ever have imagined.

For all the polls and simulations that put Donald Trump as the underdog, he still came out the victor. For all the polls that predicted the UK remaining in the European Union, the leave vote still won.

Right now, Jeremy Corbyn is polling several points behind the Conservatives. All is not lost.

While Trump may be able to change laws, he cannot change people. There are those among us who will stand up for those Trump seeks to oppress.

The election will not silence them – it will only make them louder.