Last week, the new Lord Mayor of Belfast (Northern Ireland), Nuala McAllister, created a minor stir when she didn’t say grace during her installation dinner.
She’s an atheist, so that made perfect sense for her, and others in attendance were welcome to say their own prayers (which is what many did), but some religious leaders were furious that she broke with a 25-year tradition.
The backlash hasn’t let up. The latest hit comes from columnist Alf McCreary in the Belfast Telegraph:
It is difficult to imagine a literally more graceless start to the year by any Lord Mayor whose role it is to be inclusive, and it says a great deal about the sad state of politics, religion and culture in our province.
As someone from the U.S., all of you across the pond have no idea what graceless looks like. We’ve been dealing with it every day for years now. We’re experts at graceless. Northern Ireland, you’re no graceless.
But this passage from McCreary is the height of Christian privilege. He’s blasting an “inclusive” Lord Mayor for letting people say their own prayers instead of forcing one particular religion upon everyone. She didn’t give his religion special treatment, and he can’t deal with it.
So far, I have never heard anyone of a different faith to Christianity or of no particular faith making a complaint because a cleric gave thanks for food, at the start of a formal dinner.
Surprise! The majority doesn’t pay much attention to the complaints of the minority. We’ve heard that many times before.
And while most atheists probably wouldn’t raise a fuss over dinner prayers at a formal event, it’s a different story when the person leading the prayers is a politician. It suggests that the government only cares about people who believe in one particular deity.
Maybe McCreary would understand all this if McAllister urged everyone to not pray and give thanks instead to the chefs and farmers who made the food. Or if another Lord Mayor asked everyone to pray to Allah. Would he find that inclusive or insulting?
What’s especially strange is that McCreary admits the Lord Mayor’s role is to be a leader for the whole city.
A Lord Mayor, in office, is not a private person, and for 12 months he or she is required to represent all the people of the city. Therefore there is a protocol to be followed and this requires experience and common sense which on this occasion was missing.
Yes! She’s supposed to represent everyone! And everyone is not Christian! That’s why a Christian prayer would, by definition, exclude a portion of the people she’s representing. Why create that divisiveness when it’s not necessary?
Approximately 17% of people in Northern Ireland are not Christians. They shouldn’t be ignored.
McCreary went on to denounce McAllister for insulting the memory of the people who founded her political party:
The Alliance Party was founded by my old friend the late Sir Oliver Napier (and others) to bring together people of tolerance and mutual respect in a divided society, and if he was alive today he would be appalled by an Alliance Lord Mayor who showed such a lack of tolerance for people who differ from her on their religious views.
A “lack of tolerance.” That’s unbelievable. She didn’t make a speech telling Christians to fuck off. She didn’t insult them. She didn’t tell them they couldn’t pray. She let them say whatever they wanted to.
Again, this is how good it is to be in the Christian majority, and it’s the same in the U.S. as it is over there. Anyone who treats Christians the same way as everyone else is somehow seen as persecuting them.
And then, just to prove how much of a dick he is, McCreary offered this nugget:
I am not homophobic but I was appalled by the Alliance Party’s decision to require election candidates to support same-sex marriage.
This is a remarkable lack of toleration for individual conscience on such a delicate matter, and begs the question about the Alliance Party’s claim of liberalism.
“I’m not against equal rights, but I can’t believe these politicians are treating gay couples as human beings. That goes against my faith-based bigotry. And how dare you be intolerant of my intolerance?”
He wasn’t done being a complete asshole yet.
Equally controversial is the Alliance backing for the idea of installing a window in City Hall for gay, lesbian and transgender people who have made a contribution to the city. Why not a window for fat men, or slim ladies who have made such a contribution — and since when has it been an achievement to be gay or heterosexual?
Goddammit, what is wrong with these people…?
It’s not an achievement to be LGBTQ. But when people constantly treat you as subhuman, then overcoming that faith-based hatred is a big deal. Fat men and slim women simply aren’t denied the same opportunities as LGBTQ people in Northern Ireland.
That’s why Pride parades aren’t merely a celebration of being LGBTQ — they celebrate how LGBTQ people have overcome incredible intolerance (from people like McCreary) to get to where they are today.
It’s amazing to me how McCallister merely letting people pray on their own is bringing all this idiocy from her critics to the surface. She’s giving them the rope and they’re hanging themselves.
More power to her.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Niall for the link.)