Sunday, 15 June 2008

Babiy Yar

I'm a bit of a fan of Shostakovich's music ( see Hunger for Seriousness ). Well, a BIG fan if I'm honest, almost to the point of obsession! Shostakovich's 13th Symphony contains a setting to music of a famous poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, called "Babiy Yar". It is a vehement protest against anti-semitism in the USSR, and its final two lines speak directly to me in my current explorations of the issue of gay Christians and the attitude of the church towards them (see Outing myself as a Straight gay sympathizer).

Since the "outing" post, I've had some reasonably civilised discussions on a Christian email list I'm subscribed to, along with some lamentable expressions of bigotry. I've been accused of being a "liberal in terms of sexual ethics", and asked if I approve of a heterosexual leaving his wife for another woman ( of course not! Duh!). For the record, I consider myself to be an evangelical.

But that "liberal" label that someone attempted to pin on me really stung, and put me in mind of the last two lines of Yevtushenko's poem, which says something like:

There is no Jewish blood in my veins, but I feel the hatred of the anti-semites
As if I were a Jew. That is why I am a true Russian!

Yevtushenko's words were a self-fulfilling prophecy. A few days later some thugs took a key to t his car, and scrawled the word "Yid" across his bonnet. To add insult to injury the militia made him have the car towed away, on the grounds that an offensive word was writtin on the bonnet.

Shostakovich read the poem and set it to music in the first movement of his 13th Symphony. During rehearsals, the bass soloist, a loyal communist party member, said to the composer "Why have you written this symphony? There is no anti-semitism in the Soviet Union". To which Shostakovich became very agitated and said "There is, there is antisemitism in the Soviet Union; it is a shameful thing, and we must shout about it from the rooftops". (The symphony was banned by the authorities after one performance).

And in exactly the same sense, when I see the sort of hate language (far worse than I've received) that is directed against gays by right-wing evangelicals, I would say:

I've never been attracted to another man; but I feel the bigotry of Christian homophobics as if I were queer myself. That's part of being a Christian for me.


grace said...

that's beautiful. Iian. I think I called you Lian in the other comment...sorry!

I'm finally getting around to adding you to my blog reader.


Iain said...

Hi, Grace!

I'm afraid I don't update my blog that often, but if I know someone's got the blog on their reader maybe it'll encourage me to write more often!

Everyone gets my name wrong; it's because the lower case l looks like an uppercase I in san serif typeface. And the two "i's" is a problem as well; it's the gaelic way of spelling the name I-A-I-N. Don't ask me why, in fact I'm English!

Bet you can't guess how I pronounce my surname! ;-)