Rod Liddle

Welby’s impossible task is to lead the opposition to gay marriage

17 November 2012

9:00 AM

17 November 2012

9:00 AM

The new Archbishop of Canterbury has the cleanest-shaven chin I think I have ever seen on an adult male human. It is as if, in an attempt to rid himself of even the vestigial suspicion of facial growth, he has shaved twice with a Gillette Mach 3 Turbo™ razor, and then applied those molten wax strips that women use these days on their front bottoms — for reasons of hygiene and personal comfort, we are assured. I am not saying that Justin Welby actually does this, or has it done to him by some attendant vicar, merely that it looks that way. Exfoliating wax strips are certainly not something one would associate with the evangelical wing of the Church of England, although it would not surprise me if they were utilised now and again for slightly odd purposes at the higher end of the church.

Welby has also been at pains to assert that he is something which most new appointees to big important jobs — such as -director-general of the BBC, for example — are usually determined to suggest that they are not — i.e., in his words, ‘thick’. One assumes that both the impeccably smooth chin and his avowal of thickness are designed to position him as far as is humanly possible from his predecessor, who was considered an ‘intellectual’ and possessed the finest beard in Christendom. I suspect he will be heard in the coming weeks to put still further distance between himself and Rowan Williams by expressing a fervent dislike of Muslims and Dostoyevsky.


His first real task, however, is to lead the opposition to the government’s plans to impose gay marriage ceremonies upon religious institutions which almost unanimously (except for the bloody Quakers, as usual) oppose this. Even Dr Williams was against the idea of homosexuals being married in church — or at least I think he was. His principal point seemed to be that the government did not have a mandate to do this because it wasn’t in the manifesto, etc. He did not talk about the unique nature of marriage as being between a man and a woman and still less howl that he would not allow the sodomites to desecrate God’s house. Perhaps Justin Welby will make a better fist, so to speak, of putting the theological and moral objections, because if I’m honest I don’t think old Rowan’s heart was quite in it.

It is a fight which Welby will probably lose. All of the mainstream parties are pretty much signed up to the notion that homosexuals should be allowed to get married wherever they so wish — and I look forward to the first gay wedding in a mosque; the reception should go with a bang. This week the Chancellor George Osborne took time off from his important task of destroying the country’s economy to insist that the Tories must not drop their plans for gay weddings, and cited the defeat of Mitt Romney as a harbinger for what would befall the Conservatives if they did not, you know, move with the times and stop being toxic and so on. Similar sentiments were espoused, in identical language, in every one of your daily newspapers by socially liberal commentators the day after Romney’s defeat. Obama won the election by corralling all the ‘minority’ (and not so minority) interest groups: homosexuals, Hispanics, women who are anxious to have an abortion, black people and so on, and therefore if either the Republicans or the Tories wished to win in the future, they would have to embrace these people — and, therefore, their values. Indeed, Osborne also urged upon his party a commitment not to lower the number of weeks at which an abortion can be carried out.

But surely the purpose of a political party is not simply to whore itself out, wholesale, to whichever tranche of the population is deemed to be crucial at any one time? Isn’t principle supposed to come into it somewhere? Nor am I convinced that this approach necessarily works pragmatically. On the issue of gay marriage, for example, it is not entirely true that, as Osborne asserted, the opinion polls suggest ‘a big majority’ of people are in favour of it. The polls are confusing at the very least. Those conducted by YouGov, for example, have shown support for gay marriage varying between 43 per cent and 71 per cent in favour over the space of a few months. When asked the question if the Church of England should be forced to conduct gay marriages, 47 per cent said ‘no’ and only 37 per cent said ‘yes’. It may well be that respondents are not quite sure what is meant by ‘gay marriage’ (as opposed to, say, civil partnerships). And it may also be the case that for many people in the country the issue ranks at about No. 579 on their list of important things for the government to do and that truth be told they couldn’t really give a monkey’s either way. Reader, I fall into this category.

Nor are the other people to whom Mr Osborne wishes to reach out necessarily in favour of gay marriage and a liberal approach to abortion. I would suggest that it is more likely than not to deter Muslim voters and black voters from supporting the Conservative party; both of these groups would quite like to vote for a party which was more socially conservative. I offer all this just as a small corrective to the triumphal fugue of liberalism which accompanied Barack Obama’s victory.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Noa

    “It is a fight which Welby will probably lose”.
    I wouldn’t give him a gerbil’s chance in Uranus of succeeding in winning that little war, much good though the winning of it will do for a Conservative party destined for the crap heap of political history on its current performance.
    Not least because the benediction of Cameron upon any significant appointment is now seen as the high road to early career failure but brilliant tax payer funded financial success.
    Given their average current age though, and his, Welby is likely to be the spiritual leader who witnesses the demise of the very last member of the congregation of the Church of England in England. And who then will stand to witness any same sex or different species church marriages?

    • Stanley James

      Isnt eh coe essentially catholic in all but name and the reporting structure?

      Welby has an opportunity to both build respect for gay people and show that more peopel want to marry, regardless of sexuality

      From what I’ve seen him say on the news, I actually think he’s a moderate on the issue. All of us have to give him some time and space to make the case for he himself changing his mind, like Obama did re “evolving” re gays marrying in the USA

      Same thing happened with David Blankenhorn of the institutte of american values. Back in 07 at a debate he opposed equal marriage laws, now he’s changed. He kind of has an excuse for changing, forgot the words but they basically give him space to be both pro while letting his conscious evolve.

      Wish I could give a better explaination other then if you hit people over the head you dont change their minds – they just go looking for a bigger club.

  • David Thomson

    But muslims don’t get married in mosques.

    • kevinlaw1222

      I think you know full well the point that Rod Liddle was trying to make – that as a religion, Islam is not known for its gay friendly policies – where ever Muslims do or don’t get married.

  • James Peron

    Allowing churches that wish to have marriage ceremonies for gay couples is not imposing anything. Why do big government conservatives think that allowing freedom is imposing on others?

    • Stanley James

      Becaaause they always need an ememy to get the people riled up and contribute more money. BTW isnt the CoE largely funded by the govt and therefore rightly required to do as the govt decicdes?

      3 cheers for gays marrying , shame on them tho that they, or anyone would wnat to be married in churches whose religious leaders want to keep with the dark ages.

      Cheers for England where everything I read says only 4)% of the people believe in the mythical sky fairy and I hear from the English that churche s are empty.

      • LEngland


        You appear to be inarticulate. Some of my homosexual friends are anything but gay. Why must these people be afraid to say what they truly are and resort to hiding behind a pathetic euphemism ?

        It is surely time for different slang to be imposed – ‘Bum boys’ perhaps ? Personally I prefer to eschew the matter of intimacy as, like all my homosexual friends, I regard it as a matter of privacy.

        Also, despite efforts to the contrary by the BBC and State eucation, I do not believe that this developmental defect, or others such as paedosexuality, should be brought to the attention of junior school children and believe it is criminal to do so.

        ‘Sky Fairies’. Homosexualists tend to laugh when they are called fairies. Really, this cliche for God is so desperately threadbare that you should lay it to rest. We already know how desperate some of these Queers project themselves to be. Thanks.

  • Jae Kay

    “opposition to the government’s plans to impose gay marriage ceremonies upon religious institutions which almost unanimously ”

    The Government, currently, plans only to allow civil marriages. And Muslims tend not to get married in Mosques if I’m told correctly, and some gay Muslims (don’t cry now!) have already gotten “married” in the eyes of their religion (if not their co-religionists).

    I understand a lot of this article is tongue in cheek but plenty of it is also quite a lot of dribble.

    • John Lea

      Look at the Scottish example, which I think will make its way South in due course. The SNP government, in a feeble capitulation to a highly vocal minority of gay right activists and media libtards, have gone ahead and sanctioned gay marriages in church. No debate, no discussion, no referendum. However, presumably due to the fact that Scotland (and Glasgow in particular) has a significant Catholic and Muslim demographic, they have been typically weaselly about it, adding that this right will only apply to those churches who wish to hold gay marriages in the first place. Oh really? How long is it likely to be before those churches who do not wish to consecrate gay marriage face allegations of discrimination and violation of human rights law? Not so long ago I witnessed a Church of Scotland preacher in Glasgow, having been harangued and provoked into commenting on the subject of homosexuality, later being arrested for spreading hate. As Rod says, for the vast majority of people, this issue will not register. But how the issue is used for political purposes does matter, because it demonstrates once again that all modern political parties, driven by spin doctors, focus groups and media advisors, are only too happy to sacrifice principles for votes.

      • Craig Nelson

        a)no they haven’t – the Bill has yet to be introduced let alone voted on

        b) there certainly has been a lot of debate and discussion at all levels of Scottish society (as in the rest of the UK) and that is before the Bill goes through its parliamentary stages

        c)churches are already exempted from equality laws so they couldn’t have a case taken against them (they already discriminate against women and gay people without anyone having taken them to Court). Churches do have the right to determine who they offer their ceremonies to (protected under art 9 of the ECHR) and that will of course be reiterated in the Westminster and Scottish legislation.

        So much scaremongering.

        • John Lea

          Read this and then call it scaremongering:

          64% against gay marriage yet Sturgeon is happy to ignore the views of the majority in order to portray the SNP as the caring, modern party of progress, and win favour with the libtards.

          Also, there has been no proper debate. I’ve heard discussions about the issue on radio phone-ins. I’ve also seen the clergy branded as ‘bigots’, but I have yet to hear Stonewall enter into any serious debate with the Church. And by ‘serious debate’, I mean a discussion based on reason, not ad hominem attacks.

          Your third point is incredibly naive. Churches are currently protected from equality laws, and therefore any new government legislation which legalises gay marriage would have no long-term impact on the status quo. Really? Is that similar to the old Labour argument that goes, relaxing our borders and allowing mass immigration to take place, will have no long-term negative impact on our society?

          • Craig Nelson

            I think there’s been a lot of debate. It’s not being done in secret after all. The debate is being conducted by both sides putting their views forwards in the media and on the news. The Scottish Government has carried out a consultation (I stress consultation – not a write in election on the matter). I cannot vouche for the quality of the debate – but that’s down to each of us to reach our views and share them with others.

            The position relating to churches having to marry people they don’t want to is simply a scare story – the legislation will reiterate what is currently the case. I’m not sure how that relates to immigration – there is a categorical protection under the principle of freedom of religion under the ECHR as well as enshrined in all relevant ECHR legislation on this and no one is propoing to change it.

          • Stanley James

            I don’t remember the details but the poll was done of conservative church members. It essentially came out of the wrong end of a bull.

          • mumble

            I thought the Speccie web-site blocked Guardian readers.

      • StephanieJCW

        “How long is it likely to be before those churches who do not wish to consecrate gay marriage face allegations of discrimination and violation of human rights law?”

        They won’t be. Churches are still free to refuse to marry people who are not members of the church, even though we have anti-discrimination laws regarding religion. It won’t be any different here.

      • Stanley James

        Just your use of LIBERTARDS shows what you are. the combo of liberals and tards (tirds)

        pls go back under the rock from which you crawled out. Gays are great people and they will be shortly treated in much of the west with the respect they deserve as humans.

        Take your xtian bibles to Saudi land andtry and sell them on the street. You will soon find out what its like for some gays in some places when the Mutwah take you away.

  • Edmund W

    Presumably you realise that the government has specifically expressed its opposition to forcing religions to perform same sex marriages, so why are you claiming it intends to do this?

  • Andrew Shaw

    Not on only the quakers are in favour of same sex marriages in church. Unitarians (around 150 churches) and liberal Judaism is also in favour. Recently the United Reformed Church has begun the process of allowing its churches to conduct civil partnerships on its premises and they have around 1500 churches in the UK. GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT before you launch into your arguments!!

    • crizaleasy

      Why an anglican would want to get married in a Unitarian church? Can tell you don’t understand religion!

      • Craig Nelson

        They might want to be able to get married in an Amglican church as may non-Anglicans. However if unable to do so they might seek to get married in another church that was willing to do so. in ay case churches should be allowed to do something if they choose to. The situation here is unequal – if the CofE decided it wanted to marry same sex couples it would be relatively easy for them to change the law. It would be much harder for smaller religions like Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Judaism to get the law changed for them (as we are now seeing).

  • Harry Small

    This is a thoroughly offensive blog post – especially its references to sodomites desecrating God’s house. This will be read badly by, for example, the many decent gay Christians who want thier lifelong monogamous commitment (we call it “marriage”, Rod) to be recongised by their God.
    Rod knows of course that the Government’s plans do not include forcing places of worship to copnduct weddings for those they don;t think warrant it. And that in no country so far which has legalised marriage equality has any pressure been put (let alone pressure which has succeeded) on churches and mosques to conduct gay weddings.
    The other offensive remark is the “bloody Quakers”. I assume the Mr Liddle made referencetot he “bloody Quakers” because a reference to the “bloody Jews” would be too much even for him.

    • Biggestaspidistra

      Sure that Rod was just having a bit of a larf, no real damage done. However worth noting that marriage, gay or straight, is a very conservative force, Carousers, demi-monders probably have more fun but less stability. And he’s right about the AofC’s complexion, definitely some kind of facial scrub going on there. Also eyebrows neatly clipped. Ah, you don’t miss what you’ve got til its gone.

    • crizaleasy

      God doesn’t agree with homosexual behavior, so decent gay christians will never demand to be “married” in church. They don’t hate God like christian women who have abortions don’t demand that the government make the church approve it.
      Atheists have a lot to learn. Gay Christians do not hate GOD!

    • vieuxceps2

      Why not set up ypur own gay churches and conduct your weddings there? There are many C of E parsons eminently qualified to help you be as gay as you like.
      Church of the Latter Parts perhaps? Tabernacle of the Erection? Or for Catholic lesbians, Ecclesia Cunnilingarum?

  • John

    What an awful article. The government does not want to force gay marriage on religious institutions, Cameron completely ruled that out, but that doesn’t mean a church shouldn’t be able to conduct a gay marriage if it wants to.

    You’re right that this isn’t the biggest issue facing the country, so just get it over and done with. Give gay people their rights and we can move on. It’s the opposition that is making this into a massive fuss.

    • crizaleasy

      Opposition versus government = democracy. Without serious opposition, the government could “just get it over and done with” everything, like criminalizing homosexual behavior…
      Be careful what you wish for!

  • John Thomas

    The gay marriage thing, and the destruction of traditional (real) marriage that it’s really intended to bring, will so obviously cause the destruction and end of the Tory party that I can’t help thinking that an enemy (maybe the red lot) have secretly infiltrated and put them up to it. After all, Blair was always clever enough to know that while civil partnerships were one thing, re-creating marriage (well, removing marriage) was one step the people wouldn’t go for. Having Miliband’s lot egging the Tories on actually makes my theory more plausible, because we’re not to know that if they got back into power, they might not quietly drop it – and they will get back in if theTories are routed, as they surely will be, next time.

    • Davidh

      Why will gay marriage cause the destruction of traditional marriage? It’s a popular argument but I don’t see the logic. Perhaps lots of people who would otherwise have married somebody of the oposite sex would opt to marry a partner of the same sex if given the choice? I don’t think so. Straight people will still marry straight people. But allowing gay couples to get married may just encourage more stable relationships in the gay community and all the responsibilities and “conservative values” that traditional marriage is supposed to bring to the rest of us. It can only extend the marriage franchise, not undermine it.

    • StephanieJCW

      Why will gay marriage cause the destruction of traditional marriage?

      • Stanley James

        what it will do is embarrass those who oppose it virulently. They will then be in the hole they dug for themselves. Disgraced and powerless.

    • Stanley James

      gay marriage supports the institution of marriage, which is being totally wreck by the divorces and those living together without marrying.

      Gay marriage doesnt re-define marriage – it expands it. You should be glad. In the USA up uniil 1967 many states still banned inter-racial marriage, justified as protecting the sanctity of the white race.

  • Martin Jacobson

    Rod, I really think you should edit this article and take out the reference to “sodomites desecrating the church.” It’s not funny, and it can do real damage. I grew up in a conservative church and heard things like this all the time, and when I realized I was gay, it lead to depression and thoughts of suicide. I was one of the lucky ones and did not go through with it. But there are too many others who do. Please think about the kids who are growing up gay before you make it sound like their very is existence is so bad that it could damage the church. Believe me, it isn’t the kids who damage the church but the adults who use the church to do harm to others.

    • Noa

      So because you don’t like it you argue that it shouldn’t be said?

      • Martin Jacobson

        Just because you have the freedom to say something doesn’t mean that you should.

        Statements like this lead kids to kill themselves. You may have the freedom to harm children in this way, but you definitely should not. We who are gay have no control over who we are attracted to, and when people say that our very existence is a desecration, we feel great shame. Adults can dismiss these hateful statements, but kids have a much more difficult time contextualizing it, and it turns to shame.

        If you really are a Christian and care about the message of Christ, please take the time to walk in our shoes before you judge. Read Justin Lee’s book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays v.s. Chrisitians Debate, marketed as ‘Unconditional’ in the UK. Rowan Williams even wrote an endorsement of it.

        • kevinlaw1222

          ‘..Just because you have the freedom to say something doesn’t mean that you should…’
          Which is the same as not being allowed to say somethign in the first place then. Not much point in having freedom of speech if you are never allowed to use it.

          • Stanley James

            weLL I have to go to the extreme – a man had the freedom to say what he wanted aboutl 80 years ago. HE was a failure in everything he did in life but great as a leader of demogoguery.

            He only killed one person by his own hand as best as I can find out

            his words led to the deaths of 55 million from 1938 to 1945
            Now germany and Israel have hate speech law.s

          • puss-in-plimsolls

            Ah, but that’s the point. ‘Never’ is not at issue. The question is one of discretion, and prudence for the speaker.

          • puss-in-plimsolls

            Ah, but that’s the point. ‘Never’ is not at issue. The question is one of discretion, and prudence for the speaker.

        • puss-in-plimsolls

          I agree that ‘just because you have the freedom to say something doesn’t mean you should’.

          The trouble is that we have to keep sayings things to keep the habit of free speech alive.

        • puss-in-plimsolls

          I agree that ‘just because you have the freedom to say something doesn’t mean you should’.

          The trouble is that we have to keep sayings things to keep the habit of free speech alive.

      • Stanley James

        so you think its ok to drive kids to suicide? that kind of crap drives 3000 gay kids a year to take their own life. its like a repeating 9-11, and again its due to religion.

        My best friend is a 28 year old gay guy whose been through 5 bouts of rehab and two attempted sucides due to rigth wing stians group focus on the family who essentially cast a spell of hatred of her own gay son on his mother. 10 years later she’s beginning to come out of the evil pumped into her head, she and the son get along fine, but let “gay” or “homo come up and their conversantion goes down a cliff.

        What people should do is buy the movie “”prayers for Bobby ” off ebay, be sure you get a version that works with your TV / DVD player standards .

        BAsically Mom drove her kid to jump off a bridge into the path of a truck, tks to a condemming pastor.

        then finally she realized what had happened and worked for a gay support group in the states – PFLAG.

        That strory is very typical – we have a scene like it going on at the local community college, I have no idea where it will end or how.

    • puss-in-plimsolls

      Martin: this is very trivial, but the word you want is ‘led’ (past of the verb) not ‘lead’ (present of the verb and the noun).

    • puss-in-plimsolls

      Martin: this is very trivial, but the word you want is ‘led’ (past of the verb) not ‘lead’ (present of the verb and the noun).

  • Sarah

    “those molten wax strips that women use these days on their front bottoms — for reasons of hygiene and personal comfort, we are assured”

    For reasons of the ubiquity of internet, quasi-paedophile porn, the commercialisation of the female body and self-esteem. There is nothing remotely comfortable about having your pubic hair ripped out by the roots or of labial stubble.
    Also it’s not wax strips, it’s wax, followed by cloth strips.
    Also it’s not exfoliation, it’s depilation. Although it does tend to remove the top layer of skin too.

    • Stanley James

      wharts that all got to do with gays and marrying. its not going to kill people, its kind of a stupid thing but we have bigger probs then people wanting to clean off their pubic and crack and various other body parts hair.

  • StephanieJCW

    “His first real task, however, is to lead the opposition to the government’s plans to impose gay marriage ceremonies upon religious institutions which almost unanimously”

    Liddle is it too much to ask that you even bother to do a bit of research before spouting crap?

    The argument is about civil marriage and allowing religious bodies to conduct gay marriages if they so choose. No imposition whatsoever.

  • StephanieJCW

    “I would suggest that it is more likely than not to deter Muslim voters and black voters from supporting the Conservative party; both of these groups would quite like to vote for a party which was more socially conservative.”

    Potentially on gay marriage, but as long as religious bodies aren’t forced to conduct gay marriages I doubt either of these groups will care. As for abortions, young black females tend to be overrepresented in the figures of women having abortions so I doubt they have particularly strong views against abortion.

  • puss-in-plimsolls

    Great stuff, Rod, all through.

    On the trivial matter of the jaw: smoothness and manliness can indeed be found together, as my 50-something darling proves — but he isn’t thick. Quite the contrary. Anyway it’s a relief to have a kempt Archbishop for a change, and I especially appreciate the trim, neat, meticulous eyebrows.

  • Jonathan Shepherd

    I thought the government proposals were only for civil marriage not religious marriage? Do your homework Liddle.

  • Augustus

    There are a lot of innuendos in this piece, but religious or not, one of the reasons homosexuality is such a hot-button issue is that it forces people to confront their contradictions. We’re all taught that selfishness and self-interest are bad, but we’re also taught that we must go out in the world, determine our dreams, pursue them and act with self-preservation and self-responsibility throughout life. This contradiction takes a special form in the case of romance, marriage and sexuality. Conservative, religious parents teach their children: “Marriage is selfless. The purpose of marriage is to create and raise a family. Personal happiness is secondary. Non-religious people have internalized the same false belief that love is selfless. Homosexuality challenges these assumptions, that love is selfless. If you accept your homosexuality, then, by definition, you have elevated the idea of rational self-interest above the supposed virtue of self-sacrifice.This stirs up a lot of uncomfortable feelings in people, feelings that go way beyond the boundaries of sexual orientation. But the issue of gay marriage per se (for gays already enjoy full civil rights, and are no longer persecuted in this country) is single-issue politics at its worst. Because the very people involved are themselves merely pawns in the continuing quest for power by politicians. It’s a sure sign and another indication of just how metaphysically insignificant our politicians and our political parties have become. What about cutting spending, cutting taxes or increasing individual liberty in the realm of business? We all have far bigger problems, and more profound disagreements, than gay marriage. Whether Suzie and Phyllis or Ben and John are allowed to marry has little to do with high unemployment, or poor growth in the economy, national debt, an imperiled currency, and the infringement of individual rights at the hands of Big Government.

  • ray.harwood

    How can a Christian church possibly conduct homosexual marriage ? Sex between those of the same sex is expressly against the teachings of the Christian church.
    You will get some that argue otherwise, but you need to alter the teachings of the bible in every case that this subject is mentioned in the most disingenuous manner. If you use the same approach on any subject in the bible, you can get it to mean what you want it to.
    This is all irrespective of your actual personal view on homosexuality.

  • LEngland

    The state does not ‘allow’. Churches are Church business, Anyway, this Parliamentary shower likes to seem as if it resents religion.
    Quakers for Queers, anyone ?