Why is it that not only I but millions (I suspect) of my fellow-countrymen too are left cold by the dispute raging within the Church of England about gay bishops? One has only to see the newspaper headline for the eye to slide away.
It was not always thus. Such controversies used to fire many of us on both sides of the argument with passionate conviction. There was a time when I would have leapt to my laptop, determined to join the debate. Chosen as a panellist on BBC 1’s Question Time in a week when such a question was likely to come up, I would have counted myself lucky.
Yet switching on the programme last Thursday to hear David Dimbleby turn to that redoubtable contributor to Thought for the Day Anne Atkins and ask whether she thought the new Bishop of Reading ought to be homosexual, I groaned inwardly, she groaned audibly, and I thought, ‘Rather her than me.’ I could not stir myself to an opinion.
This is a dangerous condition for a columnist. The affliction may spread. What if I lose the capacity to get steamed up on other topics too? There must be a limit to the number of columns one can pen describing one’s indifference to the latest news.
But this, I fear, is going to be one of them. The Bishop of Reading looks like a nice man, the Bishop of Oxford (who appointed him) sounds like a clever man, and the Archbishop of Canterbury is transparently a good man, but they could be Satanists, Creationists or nudists, for all I care.
Friends in the ministry who are gay, as well as homosexual friends who are keen churchgoers, express disappointment when agnostic gays respond in this way, as though we were letting them down.