Friday, 12 January 2018


Not the Spanish Inquisition. The Anglican Inquisition. It has struck! An Oxfordshire Vicar, the Revd Timothy Davis, has been convicted of ‘spiritual abuse’ by a Church of England tribunal. Not sexual abuse, mind you. The crime? Seeking to stop a teenage boy from seeing his girl-friend. The cleric used intensive prayer and Bible study to put the lad under ‘unacceptable pressure’. The sentence said it was abuse of his ‘spiritual power and authority’.

Spirituality, revolution, and girl-friends. Are they connected? ‘The mosques are closed. It doesn’t matter because I have my girlfriend’. Thus spoke a Tunisian youth I met in Sousse, in former President Ben Ali days. The dictator made sure Islam was muzzled but gave boys unfettered access to the supreme boon of females. Presumably, to channel away dissent. (‘Make love, not a revolution’!) If Mohammed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who sparked off the Arab Spring by burning himself alive, had a girlfriend, it just shows that is not enough. Justice, freedom and a job are a tad more important.

Trying to prevent a lustful lad from seeing a girl is like King Canute trying to stop a tide. Was the Vicar a fool? He is accused of having gone over the top, to have deprived the boy of his ‘freedom of choice’. That’s bad. Even sinning implies free will, otherwise, sin would not be sin but a mechanical compulsion. No free choice means no real transgression and hence no blame. Still, I wonder how St Paul would have fared before the Anglican Inquisition. His Letters speak relentlessly of souls given over to impurity, fornication, filth and the like. He could be pretty tough on his converts. ‘Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and gentleness?’ he threatens his recalcitrant flock in I Corinthians. Would the Apostle have even understood modern Churchmen objecting to prayer and the Bible to discourage Christian youths from potentially improper company? I doubt it.

Traditional Islam also does not take kindly to what the French, who have sex on the brain, call ‘la copine’. An Imam told me of a young man introducing his friend to him with the words ‘this is my girlfriend’. ‘I didn’t say anything at the time’, the wise Imam assured me, ‘But later I felt it my duty to instruct the boy that there is no such thing as a girlfriend in Islam’. Quite right. The five schools of Islamic law do not countenance sexual relations outside marriage. Such things are haram, strictly sinful and forbidden – whatever the actual behaviour of many individual Muslims.

Some argue that Vicars talk too much about sexual mores. (Hardly any, actually.) A distracting, puritanical obsession? Should they not rather focus on Jesus? GAFCON Archbishop Peter Jensen, a crusty Evangelical leader from Down Under, disagrees. He too invokes the wise old bird, St Paul’s. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul links ‘sexual sin with suppression of the knowledge of God, hence to idolatry…when we misuse our bodies by abandoning God’s instructions, it helps to corrupt our self-understanding’.  The danger of playing down those warnings would mean the Church would preach ‘a false Jesus’. An impotent Jesus who couldn’t save anyone. Disagree with him if you like, Jensen doesn’t beat around the bush. He affirms a strong biblical message. Unlike the Anglican Inquisitors.

But why should friendship between boy and girl necessarily entail sexual relations? Isn’t an innocent, chaste relationship possible? It is – theoretically. Especially with lesbians. All I will say that sexy females like Michela, Maria, and Sue – just a few of the girlfriends of my misspent youth, prior to my conversion – would have become pretty restless if I had never intimated my desire for a ‘deeper’ kind of friendship. And I suspect the experience is well-nigh universal.

Did Nietzsche put his finger on the problem? He wondered why the love story has acquired a pervasive importance in Western literature. His conclusion was that it is Christianity’s fault. Having repressed sexuality for centuries, it was inevitable a reaction should follow. Dionysus, the Greek phallic god Nietzsche saw himself as restoring to dethrone Christ, was having his revenge. A provocative thesis, with a grain of truth. In fact, the reality is worse. Even Nietzsche could not have imagined that apostate, degenerate and pathetic version of Christianity called the Church of England is on the side of Dionysus against Christ and his Apostle! Maybe the Apocalypse is at hand? Hope so…

Having fallen foul of the imbecilic Anglican Inquisition, the Oxfordshire Vicar could console himself by taking up the mantle of a truly counter-cultural hero. He could start a ‘crusade’ against girlfriends. Link up with Imams and forge an alliance between faiths – I am sure some Rabbis would join in – to discourage amorous youths. Down with St Valentine’s Day! Of course, he would soon end up in a lunatic asylum. Sanity is folly amongst the mad, isn’t it?

I admit you can go a little too far in these things. In a Doha shopping Mall (Qatar) I unthinkingly gave a peck on the cheek of a very respectable and mature female friend, a British expat. She warned me: ‘Do you want me to be deported as a person of easy morals? People are watching us!’ A reminder that a religious police has its drawbacks, too.

There is, of course, the girls’ own perspective. Any listening? Do you girls really need a boyfriend? Or is it all a male conspiracy to chain down free females?

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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