I am a publisher of Academic Biblical Studies books for Bloomsbury/T&T Clark. I also have a second career as a cabaret performer which has taken me to venues as diverse as the Tiny Jermyn Street Theatre in London and the 1200 seat Blackpool Grand, as well as across the seas to New York and Luxembourg. For the Hidden Perspectives Festival I’m doing a short cabaret show about the bible and pop music. I will be performing as an angel.
Where do you think your interest in theology and biblical studies came from?
It came from a desire to not have to choose what I wanted to study. I wanted to do history, religion, philosophy, literature, languages… and I got to, by studying Theology and Biblical Studies. I have a personal interest in Reformation History and in Liturgy, but oddly didn’t really incorporate them into my degree.
How did you get involved with Hidden Perspectives?
Through the magnificent Katie B. Edwards.
You’re Hidden Perspectives profile page introduces you as an ‘international cabaret artist’, will we get to experience this first hand at the festival? What are you bringing to the festival?
Yes. I am bringing a cabaret show about the Bible’s influence on popular music to the festival. The Bible crops up with surprising regularity in main-stream pop music. I want to draw attention to these deeply resonant themes, and to show how strongly aware of them many people still are; or at least how powerful they are.
Do you have a personal story about LGBT and Religion/The Bible?
No I don’t. At least not in terms of who I am and what I believe. I do have a number of friends who’ve had to wrestle with difficult questions posed by the relationship between sexuality and religion… and my friends are deeply important to me so I am affected. But I don’t think it would be fair to share the stories of others here.
What has been your experience of the interaction between LGBT & Religion?
My own experience has largely been of seeing friends leave a faith that they have held dear, and becoming deeply resentful of that faith. It has also been of seeing a deep hatred of religion in some friends, because religion can at times seem entirely dismissive of them or the people they love. In the same way I have known people who have remained within a religious structure and then become the harshest critics of either their former lives or the lives they might like to lead. This can become a double life, if you will. This, the suffering of friends, is a great personal sadness to me. Experienced as a sort of bystander, seeing friends experience difficulty and hurt has made me realise that people in general can be extremely quick to judge, and unwilling to recognise the whole person.
Why do you think projects like Hidden Perspectives are important?
Because they draw attention to and celebrate a wide range of views, and a wide range of readings of the text in cultural contexts. They also take the text out of itself and enable people to come to it from a variety of different viewpoints, and with a variety of different beliefs. This is good, and exciting, because it has the capacity to shape the way people think.
Why should people get involved? What’s your hope for people who do?
It’s going to be fun. It’s going to challenge preconceived ideas. I hope it’s going to interest people in the biblical texts, and to make people aware of them.
Do you believe LGBT and the Bible should be discussed together (under the same platform)?
Yes. The bible – or the application of certain parts of the bible – has given rise to a great deal of hatred, and been used to justify violence towards/against LGBT people. Using the bible to justify acts of hatred and violence is unacceptable in my worldview. So discussion under the same platform is necessary.
What are some of your hopes for the future of LGBT & Religion discussion?
My greatest hope is for mutual respect, and a dispassionate approach. If this seems like I’m dreaming an impossible dream, I could start by saying what I would like most … I would like for there to be some sense of constructiveness, which I think the Hidden Perspectives festival is a wonderful sign of.
I think this constructiveness could begin with a reassertion of the human person as whole. I do think that – perhaps – a modern media-led obsession with sex and body image has skewed the way we view humanity (and perhaps the way in which we view religion in a round-about way). Another problem is that I think religion is often viewed with little understanding by those actively participating in dialogue with it, and so religion can be presented and engaged with from a basic position of a lack of any understanding of what religion (either a specific religion, or religion generally) really says. This, as a basis for dialogue and discussion, is entirely flawed.
To my mind, much of religion is to do with what makes human beings different from animals. Sexual relationships can have the potential to both underline that differentiation, but also to negate it when they lack meaning. What makes humans different from animals is not only our higher intellect, but also our developed sense of, and capability to give and receive love. This is what links us to God. So I think the discussion needs to be couched in terms of love – of human flourishing and what creates it – and for me this is ultimately a quest for union with God. From this point a discussion which is based on shared principles could continue.
Finally, I think that in the present climate it is important to be pragmatic. Not everyone agrees. Indeed, complete agreement may be impossible. So I think an important initial step must be to boldly assert what should be fundamentally unacceptable to all – such as violence and hate crimes, denial of civil liberties, discrimination – things with which we have progressed greatly, but perhaps not as far as we like to think. There is still a worryingly strong middle-England sort of brigade that have a genuine fear of LGBT people. This is a failure to respect and understand the wholeness of the human person, and I don’t like it. Challenging this is something where dialogue between LGBT and religion could make a tremendous positive impact.
For more info check out Dominic’s participants page here.