Piers Morgan has some robust views about religion and sexual-reproductive morality, and if you happen not to agree with his perfectly enlightened worldview, you are a lunatic, a bigot, or a peddler of hate (or all three). He likes to interrogate people’s dogma and expose intolerance wherever it may be found, especially if it adds to Good Morning Britain’s viewing figures or boosts his 6.72m Twitter horde. It is no surprise, therefore, that a Christian doctor who refused to call a 6ft bearded man ‘madam’ has tickled Torquemorgan’s self-promoting antennae.
Dr David Mackereth, a Christian, has spent 20 years as an NHS doctor in A&E. He then became a benefits assessor in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). In an interview in the Daily Mail, he explains how a tall bearded man came to him for assessment and insisted on being addressed as ‘Mrs’ and ‘she’, which Dr Mackereth declined to do. He was duly sacked from his job with the DWP for transgressing transgender rights and breaching the provisions of the 2010 Equality Act.
O, hang on. That’s not quite what happened. There was no actual tall bearded man who insisted on being addressed by female pronouns: it was just a DWP diversity training exercise:
The doctor alleged that during his two-week training he was asked this hypothetical question in June last year, just four days into the job: ‘If you have a man, 6ft tall with a beard, who says he wants to be addressed as “she” and “Mrs”, would you do that?’
When Dr Mackereth, from Dudley in the West Midlands, said his religious conscience would not let him do so, he claims he was dismissed.
Then Piers Morgan duly branded him a ‘bigot’ on national TV, and now Dr Mackereth, supported through an Employment Tribunal by Christian Concern, fears he may never work as a doctor again. He reasons:
Someone who presents quite obviously as male is entitled to say “Call me Mrs” or “Call me she”, but the question is, am I legally obliged to do that?’ he asks.
And if you are legally obliged to refer to patients in a way your conscience does not allow, does that mean you are no longer fit to be a doctor?
This case is all about whether I am legally clear to say — on the grounds of my religious conscience — “No, I can’t call you ‘she’ or ‘he’, not because I want to hurt you or don’t accept you, but because my Christian convictions simply won’t allow me to do that”.
The pronouns “he” and “she”, in particular, are like the glue that holds our language together.
Words can be more powerful than atomic bombs if used in a new way.
If they become fluid in their meaning, and are used in an arbitrary way, they then simply become meaningless.
Add to that the legal sanctions if you misgender someone, and I believe we have a very complicated and troubling problem on our hands.
We could be on the verge of committing a hate crime for simply using the wrong pronoun.
What if a Hindu attends a church with his pooja kit and Hare Krishna husband, and while you’re reciting the Nicene Creed he is worshipping Ganesha and Navgraha? He calls himself a Christian, and sees no incompatibility at all; no conflict of interest, devotion, or morality. For him, it is all about worshipping god, capital ‘G’ or not.
“I don’t really see any contradiction or even tension between saying Christian prayers and saying Hindu prayers,” he explains. “I am here in the Hindu-Christian context and that is how I pray with the universal community of enlightened faith.”
“Traditionally in all religions there is a feeling that religion is a club,” he explains further. “Notions of ‘I am from this religion’ and ‘we are against all other religions’ is so out to date. We are moving very fast towards a single global village, and we need to love and accept.”
You may consider this a mindless form of theological relativism. You may be of the view that Christianity and Hinduism are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive. You may consider that this Hindu-Christian an idolater who has repudiated Christianity, biblical theism and orthodox morality.
But who are you to impose your narrow religious bigotry upon a seeker of higher truth? Who are you to insist upon your restrictive myopic liturgy? What gives you the right to define the divine? Who made you the judge of apostasy and pope of what Christians should believe and do?
Isn’t your version of Christianity just English folk religion? You believe in a man hanging on a cross who rose from the dead, and he believes in a snake god and an elephant god and a monkey god as representations of an unseen power of love which he shares with his husband. You call that power the One True God and insist that the He is male, but he has other names and pronouns for it.
What is all the fuss about? Your apprehension of religious identity is different from his: he is a Christian mystic; you are Christian fundamentalist or literal dogmatist. In the contemporary world, do we not need more believers in Christ to exhort and encourage a wider spiritual vision of latitude, tolerance, peace and reconciliation?
What’s that you say? Narrow is the path? Your religious conscience will not let you call the Hindu a Christian? You can’t call him ‘brother’ or recognise him as a fellow disciple, not because you want to hurt him or reject him, but because your Christian convictions simply won’t allow you to do that?
“Bigot,” spits Piers Morgan.
“But ‘Christ’ and ‘Christian’ are like the glue that holds our theology together,” you reason. “If they become fluid in their meaning, and are used in an arbitrary way, they then simply become meaningless.”