Or at least, that’s what authors of a recent report by Wilton Park (an executive agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office) would have us believe. In a series of recommendations openly branding religion the enemy of LGBTI rights, they’re calling for state funding to reinterpret the Bible to make it compatible with LGBTI ideology, and for the new belief system to be required teaching in all churches, Sunday schools, and theological seminaries. Christian bigotry and opposition must, it says, be stamped out.(See: https://www.wiltonpark.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/WP1488-Report.pdf; also https://barnabasfund.org/downloads/pdf/other/Barnabas-Fund-Wilton-Park-report-short.pdf)
OR DID HE?
Scene: Dawn, outside the Pearly Gates. St Peter is standing at the head of a long queue of new arrivals waiting to be processed. He is currently talking to a tall angry man at the head of the line.
St Peter (wearily): And you’re demanding entry on what basis?
Angry Man: It’s my human right.
St Peter (peering over the spectacles perched on the end of his long nose): Huum… Actually, most people don’t ‘demand’ entry. They ‘ask’ if they can come in.
Angry Man: So? At the end of the day, it’s all the same, isn’t it? Let me in!
He pushes forward, clearly intending to barge his way through, but Peter stands firmly in the way.
St Peter: No, I’m sorry. We’ve got protocols. I’m sure you understand… after all, you worked as a Schools’ Inspector, didn’t you? (Angry Man nods and Peter takes this as encouragement) That’s better. You see what matters is whether or not you chose to follow Christ when you were on earth, and if you tried to be obedient to what he said. That decides whether of not you actually belong here or the other place?
Angry Man (puzzled now): The other place?
St Peter: Yes, you know… I think you humans generally refer to it as hell.
Angry Man: Hell!?! Don’t be ridiculous! There’s no such place.
St Peter: There is actually. And a devil too. He’s head down there – though I believe a lot of men and women these days pretend he doesn’t exist too.
Angry Man (looking slightly nervous now): Look, stop messing round and let me in.You’ve had your joke and I’ve come a long way. I’m tired.
St Peter (now looking in a large leather bound book that he’s just taken down off a shelf at the side of the gate): Yes, I can see that…. But the trouble is, it says here that for most of your life you’ve been going the wrong way. In fact, one way and another, you’ve been giving a lot of ‘worship’ to the devil. So you belong with him.
Angry Man doesn’t appear to know what to make of this. He blows out his cheeks and scratches his head, then finally stamps his foot.
Angry Man: Look, I really haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. I’ve led a good life, I really have! I belong here. In heaven!
St Peter (looking unimpressed): Really? And why do you think that exactly? After all for most of your life – since the age of 14, in fact – you’ve been very insistent that God didn’t exist. You called him a social construct, a ‘pathology’ designed to keep people in their place, and you said that people who believed in Him were mentally deranged fantasists. But heaven’s the kingdom of God. It’s His abode … so why should you want to come here?
Angry Man (looking momentarily stumped): Well that was then and I didn’t understand. I couldn’t see anything outside of life. But I can now. I came through the most awful place on my way up here. It was really grim, and I could hear people screaming. (He looks longingly through the huge gate, through which a beautiful garden can be seen) But this place looks nice. (St Peter stares at him speculatively, and the man suddenly winces, then says pleadingly) Please let me in. I’m scared of the other place.
St Peter (regretfully): I would if I could, believe me, but you made your choice back on Earth. You rejected God, and deliberately committed just about every sin in the Book. Not just that, but you went out of your way to try and stop others believing too. In fact, correct me if I’m wrong, but you ran a campaign to get all the bits in the Bible that you didn’t agree with edited out. (The man nods miserably and Peter shakes his head) We can’t just pretend that didn’t happen, you know. The Bible is God’s word. He inspired every part of it, and it’s there to help and guide people. It shows them how to live – so how would it look if we now said none of it matters and just let you in?
Angry Man: But I’m not a bad person!
St Peter: It depends what you mean by bad really. No one ‘good’ has ever come through these gates, except for One, and it’s He who leads his followers through. Every last one of them is ‘bad’ – I was bad. But Jesus takes all that badness on Himself, and in exchange gives people His goodness, and that’s how people get in. But you rejected Him, you see, so that’s not possible, and there’s no other way through the gate.
Angry Man: I didn’t know… All those rules, they seemed so boring. I just wanted to have fun and be happy.
St Peter: You mean you wanted your own way. Which is exactly what you want now – but it doesn’t work like that.
The man appears to have no answer to this. He stares at Peter with dawning horror, then very slowly turns and begins to walk away.