Whilst walking my way down Market Street in Manchester this morning, making my way to Chapel, amidst the debris of Gay Pride, side stepping mountains of half drunk champagne bottles, tattered rainbow flags and pink streamers, I couldn't help but notice amongst the detritus not only passed out drunks but homeless peoples, whose only possessions appeared to be in a few black plastic bin bags which looked scarily like the banks of rubbish being thrown on the dustcart by the council workers.
I was moved by the sharp dichotomy. The contrast between those who spent the night on the street in their party clothes because they had drunk too much, and for whom this would be something to tell their friends later - high jinks indeed - and those for whom every night was spent on the street, and we wearing their only clothes. and for whom there would be no high jinks,
And yet, this was taking place in Manchester, at the Pride Big Weekend - a festival to welcome and celebrate the LGBTQI communities, to celebrate, welcome and affirm. To support and uphold those who are differant; those who within a few short decades have had their lives transformed. Manchester, welcoming thousands of visitors and thousands of pounds spent in shops and bars.
But yet where was the welcome, the hospitality, for those who are down and out and quite literally have nothing?
On Saturday - again in Market Street - I was stopped by a Christian lady who warned me that Manchester "Is the new Sodom, I tell you! Repent!".
And I agreed. Which shocked her. But not in the way I believe she intended me to reply.
The sin of Sodom was not homosexuality. It was about wealth. And power. And the abuse of power. Of not showing hospitality, especially to the least:
"For this was the guilt ... of Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, surfeit of food and prosperous ease but did not aid the poor and needy" (Ezekiel 16: 48-49)
The sins of Sodom were Pride, Greed, and Inhospitality.
This is contrasted elsewhere in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah with the radical hospitality shown by Abraham and also Lot toward strangers, toward unexpected guests in his house. Abraham was told by "God" that he would be rewarded for showing such hospitality.
The sin of Sodom is not homosexuality (although there is attempted rape....)
And yet this weekend, in Manchester I saw just that: greed and inhospitality. Whilst Manchester opened its arms to the LGBTQI community and the power of the "Pink Pound", people were living on the streets, in bin bags and tents. And were even asked to "move on" from the area around Canal Street, as if they were human detritis but be cleaned up by the council bin men to make the area nicer and litter free for the party-goers. The hypocracy is mind blowing: an event to welcome "the other," those whom less than fifty years aho whose choice of lover was illegal, was treating "the other" and the downtrodden as little more than human waste, to be tidied up off the street for a Big Weekend to celebrate inclusion and community.
How do we as the LGBT community respond to the other, to those who do not conform within our community (those who do not fit the idealised gay man or woman or neatly fit into our compartments) and how do we respond to those who literally have nothing? A three-year old report suggests that 20% of all homeless youth in the UK are LGBT - thrown out as unwanted, as damaged goods by their parents - and with the highest rate of suicide amongst homeless youth (69%).
So yes, I do agree with the Christian lady with the pamphlets and a bible - this is a new sodom and we do need to repent. Repent of our sins of pride, of greed, and show hospitality to all.
The Church needs to repent of Sodomy, too: for two thousand years it has been persecuting, torturing and murdering gay people in the name of a "God of Love". Subjecting LGBT people to extreme acts of inhospitality. Because of policies of exlcusion, condemnation and denial by the Church towards LGBT people; by the response of Manchester council to the plight of the homeless (being moved on; installing spikes etc) i it is they who are the sodomtes rahter than the LGBT community and the homeless. Rather than LGBT people, it is they who deserve the anathema carried by the word 'Sodomite.'
"He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away."