The BBC has been criticised over an Easter message from PinkNews founder Benjamin Cohen which likens the treatment of gay people in Britain to the crucifixion of Christ.
Benjamin Cohen, the founder of PinkNews, will tell Radio 4 listeners in a talk to be broadcast this week that, just like gay people, according to the Gospels, Jesus was punished “for something he couldn’t help”.
“I was lucky, my family didn’t abandon me and I haven’t been rejected from my community, despite it being well known that I’m gay.
“Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone, and I’ve been written to by many young people whose families have abandoned them for being honest about who they love. Some parents give them an ultimatum to ignore their feelings or even undergo controversial reparative therapies to turn themselves straight. Shockingly, every year, hundreds of people, mainly teenagers kill themselves because of their family or society’s rejection of them, due to their sexuality.
“In many cases, the reason for this rejection is religion – something that really angers and upsets me. Religion should be about bringing families together, united in devotion and celebration, not tearing them apart.”
Andrea Williams, director Christian Concern, told the Telegraph that to draw upon the story of Christ and to link it with the experiences of gay people is “blasphemous”.
“To say that lack of acceptance of homosexual practice which we are told to flee in the Bible equates with the experience and suffering of Christ is to have totally misunderstood his message.
“Jesus loves everyone but his message to homosexual community is to turn away from their previous path.”
She added: “The BBC panders to a liberal, politically correct agenda and fails to take the opportunity to explore and educate its listeners about the true meaning of Lent and Easter.”
In his talk, Mr Cohen speaks about the experience of growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family but educated in a Church of England school and having mixed emotions about the figure of Jesus.
“Then for me, everything changed, at my day school I learnt who the man on the cross really was – That he was the grownup version of the baby we’d performed the nativity of. That to Christians he was the son of God as well as the messiah we Jews occasionally pray for and that he was also part of God. Then I was told that I killed him, well the Jews did.
“In fact it got closer than that to me, my surname is Cohen. That means I’m part of the priestly cast, who perform special prayers in the synagogue. Our paternal line goes back to Aaron and, in the time of Jesus, to Cohen Gadol, the high priest who ran the temple. And, according to the gospel, to the priests, led by Caiaphas who arrested and tried Jesus for blasphemy. In the book of Matthew, these same priests, the Cohens, spit on Jesus’s face, try him and ultimately lead him to Pontius Pilate for execution.”
Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, the retired Bishop of Rochester, told the Telegraph: “Of course people, whoever they are, should be treated with respect and dignity.
“But I think to confuse Christ’s identity as the son of God with your sexual preferences is firstly not understanding who Christ is and secondly not understanding who God wants us to be.
He added: “Of course there are things about us that we feel we can’t help but by God’s grace he can help us to live in a way that is obedient to him and his word.”
A BBC spokesman said: “The theme of this year’s Lent Talks is abandonment and features six well-known figures from public life, arts and religion.
“In this programme Benjamin Cohen talks about his personal fear of being abandoned by his own Jewish community for being gay.”
Benjamin Cohen told the Daily Telegraph: ““From a Christian perspective, Jesus didn’t choose to be born the son of God. It was a decision made by God the father.
“Just like gay people didn’t choose to be attracted to people of the same sex.
“Being proud to be gay, to me, equates to being proud of how God made me.”
You can hear Benjamin Cohen’s Lent Talks programme on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 6 March at 8:45 pm.