Here is a rule of thumb for all moral debate; it is original, I think, but not copyright. This is it. If anyone accuses you of being obsessed with something, the probability is that their logic is faulty, their lifestyle suspect, or both.

The usual topic is sex. How curious! Join a discussion about war and peace, asylum seekers, global poverty, homelessness, human cloning, education, the environment, hospitals, road safety, alcoholism, smoking or hunting with dogs, and you may encounter agreement, indifference, disagreement or sometimes passionate opposition. But if you take anything like a traditional line on sexual matters you are accused of being obsessed with the subject. How can we reply without losing our cool and playing into the hands of the liberal media machine?

One way is to show that there are plenty of worse things to be obsessed with. Like Big Brother, Brown (Dan or Gordon), astrology, train times and numbers, outward appearance, weight-loss, money, clothes, food; see Matthew 6 etc. To deny or minimize our universal fascination with sex is, well, being in denial.

Another response might be to suggest that if people really want to see this kind of obsession, they could take a look at the pages of personal ads in their national or local papers, let alone the publications from the gay scene and beyond.

These thoughts were prompted by one of those ‘Face to Faith’ pieces in (of course) the Guardian some time around last Christmas. Foolishly, my son had thrown away the paper (it being his) before I had a chance to save that page. But as I recall it was penned by the female chaplain of an Oxbridge College, championing the heroics of some gay American bishop and accusing all who questioned him of being obsessed with sex. Yes, not him or her, but us! Clearly they don’t do sex, or talk about it, in bedrooms or common rooms respectively of modern academia. If that is so, how things have changed since my day.

The only justification for accusing someone of being obsessed with anything seems to be that you are doing the accusing. Argument weak: accuse here! Or is it that I’m rightly concerned, you’re over-anxious, they are obsessed. Well, they are, aren’t they?

Chris Idle