Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Portillo and politico-religiosity

A couple of communicants have emailed Cranmer asking for comment on Michael Portillo’s article in The Times on the relationship between faith and politics, because ‘that’s what you’re about’.

Well, yes and no.

Firstly, Cranmer blogs on whatever he wishes; and secondly, he couldn’t be bothered to waste his very valuable time, or insult the intelligence of his communicants, on such a puerile, superficial, unintelligent load of dross. Take this, for example:

I worry because men of power who take instruction from unseen forces are essentially fanatics . . . I would be more reassured to hear that the Tory leader goes to church because that is what it takes to get a child into the best of state schools, not because he is a believer.

With the capacity for such ill-informed and patronising generalisation, it comes as a relief that Mr Portillo is no longer in Parliament.

Cranmer is occasionally invited to fisk. Indeed, one such request came just over a week ago, and may be found here. A fisking of Portillo would have taken quite a few pages, and there are simply more important things in life than attempting to respond to a soul absorbed by his own conceit. And anyway, Lord Rees-Mogg has now responded in The Times, saving Cranmer the bother.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Conservative and still Unionist – a Tory / DUP coalition?

Traditionally, the main political parties have kept out of Northern Ireland. Despite professing to be United Kingdom parties, they have kept Ulster in limbo, choosing either not to stand candidates in elections, or (in the case of Labour) not permitting party membership. But over recent years there has been a gradual shift in policy, with a loosening of these traditional prohibitions, and David Cameron is now formalising what hitherto has been a tentative exploration.

The Conservative Party is making a serious bid for its first seat in the Stormont assembly. Historically, and until 1972 formally, the Party allied itself with the Ulster Unionist Party, as Labour did with the Social Democratic and Labour Party. Thus the Conservatives have been perceived to identify predominantly with the ‘moderate’ Protestant Loyalist cause, while Labour has identified itself with the ‘moderate’ Catholic Nationalism, both avoiding the ‘extreme’ Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein. But the meltdown of the UUP, consequent defections to the Conservative Party, and the phenomenal rise of the DUP, have caused a reconsideration of strategy. Quite right too. The United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland, and one cannot profess to be a Unionist party and then specifically exclude and alienate a constituent component of it.

But the UUP leader, Sir Reg Empey, challenged Mr Cameron to clarify the Conservative position. In Stormont, parties are required to register themselves as being either Unionist or Non-Aligned. Of course, the Conservative Party’s official name used to be The Conservative and Unionist Party, but with the advent of devolution, and out of sensitivity to Scottish Conservatives, the ‘unionist’ suffix has been quietly dropped from official documentation. As recently as 2003, a Party manifesto claimed 'we are a party of the Union', yet pledged that 'any Conservative elected to the assembly will refuse to play the sectarian headcount and will remain non-designated’.

The problem for Mr Cameron is that Unionism in Northern Ireland is not simply a political term; it is acutely religious, for it is synonymous with Protestantism. One can pretend otherwise, and insist that it is not a sectarian term, and point out that many Roman Catholics are Unionist (and they are), but the insistence that the term is not exclusive to any religious or ethnic group does not negate the reality that it predominantly is. In Northern Ireland, issues of monarchy, military, education, housing, justice, policing, and marching, are all viewed through the lens of religious identity.

Mr Cameron been to the Province now on three occasions, and he has appointed a member of the Party Board to oversee the development of his strategy for Ulster. The media is largely ignoring this, but his message is clear: the Conservative Party under him will engage in Northern Ireland, and any elected candidates will be Unionist. Of course, he aspires for a non-sectarian politics, and he states: ‘One of the reasons we are standing is to say to people in Northern Ireland politics doesn't have to be like this. It should be about the quality of your school, the quality of your hospitals, the choice you get in public services, supporting the rule of law, backing the free enterprise system.

Mr Cameron calls on the DUP to share power with Sinn Fein, because it’s what ‘the majority of people want’. Cranmer doubts that the Conservative leader has consulted the majority, and he rather thinks that his interest in matters Hibernian is rather more to do with the next General Election…

Consider, just for a moment, that the election of 2008/9 has been a tedious affair as Mr Cameron and Mr Brown have battled endlessly over the centre ground, each promising the same ends, with indiscernible differences in their means. As a result, the electorate decides that neither shall be victorious, and a hung parliament ensues. But while commentators and political pundits await news of the Tory-LibDem coalition they have long prophesied, Mr Cameron approaches the DUP for its 9 MPs to govern in coalition. A deal is done, and like a latter-day Moses, at the magnificent age of 82, the Rt Hon Rev Dr Iain Paisley enters the British Cabinet...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A little idolatry...

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments."

But... isn't she just magnificent? Cranmer concedes that he is an idolatrous sinner, but on the week when this remarkarble woman was honoured with a bronze likeness in the Palace of Westminster, the Lord will be understanding and quick to forgive.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Bill 'to remove remaining legislative discrimination against Catholics'

With a hat tip to Mr Fawkes for the graphic, Cranmer notes that the Rt Hon John Gummer MP is jumping on the anti-Protestant bandwagon which is also being pursued fervently by a meddlesome Cardinal, and even by a few bishops in the Anglican Communion. Mr Gummer has introduced a Bill into Parliament ‘to remove remaining legislative discrimination against Catholics; to make provision for the independence and freedom of operation of Catholic institutions; and for connected purposes’.

Cranmer is fully aware that this cause is shared by some of his communicants, who also wish to repeal the Act of Settlement 1701. In his speech to move the Bill, Mr Gummer states variously that the Act is ‘insulting’, ‘uncivilised’, ‘intolerable’, ‘shameful’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘unacceptable', and ‘insidious’.

And he further states that Roman Catholics are ‘the largest worshipping community in this country’. He conveniently fragments Protestantism into its manifold denominations for his statistical purposes, and he also argues for the Roman Catholic Church to have ecclesiastical and legal parity with the Church of England.

He explains for us all what he understands to be the manifest evil. He says: ‘We must go back beyond that and consider what discrimination is about. Discrimination is about saying, "I am better than you are because my views are right and your views are wrong." It is the opposite of toleration.’ Yet, interestingly, he refers to Scientology as being ‘intellectually difficult and religiously rubbish’, which doesn’t, to Cranmer, sound much like tolerance. He equates this ‘religion’ with his own Roman Catholicism, which is ‘intellectually difficult and religiously correct’. So that’s alright then; nothing subjective in that assertion at all. Mr Gummer even appealed to the personal faith of the Speaker (who is the first Roman Catholic to hold the post since the Reformation), which is a murky muddying of the office bearer with the office if ever there was one.

Mr Gummer’s grasp of the British Constitution is alarmingly superficial. Cranmer has covered the vast complexities of this before, and this explains why the Prime Minister has not even entertained the possibility of amendment, let alone repeal. But it might assist Mr Gummer if he consulted the teachings of his own church in order to be better informed of the constitutional implications for politicians and any potential Roman Catholic monarch.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his previous incarnation as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published in 2003 an illuminating document, entitled: ‘Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life’. This sets out quite clearly how the ‘Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals’. When one considers that the Roman Catholic Church perceives itself to be sole interpreter of these morals, and the sole educator of that formative conscience, it is easy to see how repeal of the Act begins to imperil the status of the Monarch as head of State.

The document also states: ‘For Catholic moral doctrine, the rightful autonomy of the political or civil sphere from that of religion and the church - but not from that of morality - is a value that has been attained and recognised by the Catholic Church and belongs to the inheritance of contemporary civilization’. Some ethical principles, however, are ‘non-negotiable’ because they form part of a ‘true and solid foundation’. This foundation is ‘Christian moral and social teaching’, of which the Pope is not only the guardian and advocate, but also creator. Those Roman Catholics who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a ‘grave and clear obligation to oppose' any law that attacks human life. The document states: ‘For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.’ Basically, Roman Catholic politicians are ordered to obey the Pope. This is not some medieval notion; it was reiterated in the 21st century. When one moves the doctrine of ‘infallibility’ into declarations on faith and morals, those liberties which were acquired for us by our Protestant forebears rapidly begin to fade away.

Cranmer does not negate the responsibility of Christians to ‘contend for the faith’, but the Protestant way to do this is from the bottom up; by a politician’s conscience being seared by the Lord, and by him having direct access to God. When a politician’s duties are articulated and codified in such a document, with all the implicit anathemas in cases of failure or rejection of those duties, the top-down nature of Roman Catholicism is seen to be antithetical not only to our Protestant religious tradition, but also to our laws and customs which have developed over centuries.

Rome’s religio-political saint par excellence is Thomas More, because, ‘although subjected to various forms of psychological pressure, Saint Thomas More refused to compromise, never forsaking the constant fidelity to legitimate authority and institutions which distinguished him; he taught by his life and his death that man cannot be separated from God, nor politics from morality’. God forbid that John Gummer should see too much of himself reflected in his appointed role model.

Monday, February 19, 2007

So all roads lead to Rome - episode 42

His Grace feels a little harassed by those communicants who have enquired as to why there has been no comment on this or this. He has even been goaded by a few fellow bloggers to make comment, and he therefore humbly obliges (notwithstanding his belief that there are more important religio-political issues to comment upon, like this).

The reality is that His Grace is more than a little bored by the whole Reunification Show. It has been going on for decades, and is about to supplant The Mousetrap as the longest running theatrical propduction in the world. A few deluded bishops at the top of the Church of England can draw up whatever document they wish, but the practical outworking will have no bearing on the theory.

ARCIC has been over-inflated with its own sense of self-importance for decades. It is not that there are not parties on both sides that desire unity; there manifestly are, and it is in accordance with the Lord's prayer 'that they may be one'. But it is manifestly obvious that there are millions of Anglicans (and Roman Catholics, for that matter) for whom talk of 'reunification' amounts to theological and ecclesiological nonsense.

Even in an age which sets aside the differences over such things as soteriology, we are still left with a few insuperable hurdles, like papal infallibility on matters of doctrine and faith. The via media of the Church of England may have supplanted an absolute pope with an absolute monarch, but too much water has flowed under the bridge for swimming against the tide to be credible. Female vicars and bishops? Homosexual vicars and bishops? Gay 'marriage' blessings? Married vicars?

If the holy orders of the Church of England are 'null and void', and His Holiness reiterated in Dominus Iesus that the Church of England is 'not a church in the proper sense', it is manifestly an absence of sense that deludes people into believing that reunification is remotely possible.

Let us just agree to differ, and let our mutually manifest tolerance be light in an increasingly intolerant world.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Treason and the ‘state religion’

Brian Tamaki is an Evangelical bishop of that far-flung outpost of the British Commonwealth - New Zealand. Christianity (the Protestant, Reformed variety) is the state religion there, just as it is wherever Her Majesty holds dominion. The New Zealand Herald is reporting that its prime minister, Helen Clark, has drafted an ‘aspirational’ national statement on religious diversity which says ‘New Zealand has no state religion’. This, apparently, is a necessary corollary of a nation which wishes to respect the ‘human rights’ of ‘religious freedom, tolerance and a national commitment to religious diversity’.

But Bishop Tamaki is having none of it. As a loyal royalist, he refers to the Coronation service during which the Queen was presented with a Bible and told, ‘This is the royal law’. Any deviation from this, for him, amounts to ‘religious treason’.

One might have expected other Christian leaders to flock to his side, appalled by the further erosion of the centrality of the Judeo-Christian foundations of the English-speaking world, but the Anglican Bishop, Richard Randerson, said the evangelicals were confusing ‘the significant role of Christianity in the life of the country with being the official state religion’, which, he asserts, it is not. It is noteworthy that this bishop recently declared himself an agnostic, and supports the removal of all mentions of Jesus from public prayers.

The less said about this ‘Anglican Bishop’, the better. He appears not only to misunderstand the mission of his religion, but also to ignore the political imperative of the Coronation Oath, which commits Her Majesty to govern her realms ‘according to their laws and customs’ and ‘to maintain the Protestant Reformed religion established by law’.

But Bishop Tamaki is wrong to speculate on the new crime of ‘religious treason’. There is no such misdemeanour on the Statute Books, and the nearest might be the crime of blasphemy. Treason is treason, and this does not need qualifying. Section Three of the Treason Felony Act of 1848 asserts that condemnation is incurred ‘If any person whatsoever shall, within the United Kingdom or without, compass, imagine, invent, devise or intend to deprive or depose our most gracious Lady the Queen...from the style, honour, or royal name of the imperial crown of the United Kingdom.

While Her Majesty’s ‘royal name’ endures, the consistent and concerted attacks upon the Protestant Christian faith – the religion she is sworn to uphold – may certainly be considered a deprivation of her ‘style’. The problem is that none dare call it treason.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Conversion of England?

According to The Times, Roman Catholicism is set to become the dominant religion in Britain for the first time since the Reformation. This is occurring not because of Vatican rigidities on the prohibition of contraception, but because of the European Union’s ‘free movement of people’ policy which is permitting massive migration from the sclerotic, statist corporatism of the Roman Catholic countries to the vibrant, free-market capitalism of this Anglo-Saxon Protestant realm.

The article refers to a report referring to this growth as ‘the Catholic community’s greatest opportunity’. Greatest opportunity for what? Why is The Times presenting this story as the triumphal culmination of the centuries-old objective of the conversion of England?

The reality of the situation is not quite as The Times portrays. There are 4.2 million Roman Catholics in England and Wales, 25 million baptised Anglicans, and around 2 million Muslims. While it may be true that attendance at Mass has increased, this is due more to a Polish perception of the Catholic Church being an institute for welfare than it is a sudden new-found faith. Anglican worship is stable, not diminishing, and a truer picture of the status of Protestantism in the UK is only achieved when one adds to the Anglican figures those of the Free Churches. There are no firm statistics for these, but the Evangelical churches have been experiencing considerable growth over the past two decades, and such growth is far more to do with Sola Scriptura than it is the Catechism.

In a media age, however, perception is everything. While the Church of England is perceived to compromise on just about everything, it is Rome which is counter-cultural, and perceived to make a stand for the apostolic traditions of the Church. The Times asked a few years ago: ‘As the new papacy reaffirms Catholic dogma, why is the Anglican Church so lily-livered?’ It is simply the lack of effective leadership, which can only be a direct result of decades of third-rate prime ministerial appointments of bishops and archbishops. Just as politicians appear to be obsessed with apologising for the sins of yesteryear (most recently for slavery, and the potato famine), Cranmer awaits the prime minister who will apologise for the Reformation.

Yet all of this is of secondary concern to the spiritual health of the nation. While Anglicans and Roman Catholics are obsessed with counting the faithful on Sundays, Muslims are filling their mosques on Fridays, and growing exponentially. In terms of regular attendance and loyal devotion, this is the group that the media should really be focusing on, for they challenge not merely the achievements of the Reformation, but they herald the end of Christendom.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Christianity, Charity, and the opportunity for Conservatism

Charles Moore recently drew people’s attention to the plight of some Christians in the UK, and the discrimination many are enduring as a direct result of their faith. The whole article may be found in The Daily Telegraph, but, in summary, they included a foster mother whose application to foster children was rejected. She was told: ‘Your beliefs prevent you from fully accepting a child's sexuality if he or she were lesbian or gay’, and ‘Your beliefs do not allow you to actively promote another religion for a child’.

The founder of a charity to assist single mothers applied for a grant from the DfES, and was turned down because the charity’s website revealed its Christian foundation. This led the DfES to conclude that the charity ‘was not open to everybody’ (despite the fact that it ministers to all single mothers regardless of faith), and the letter of rejection identified the crime: ‘Your assistance for single parents includes extending Christian comfort and offering prayer’.

The Spitalfields Crypt Trust has ministered to homeless alcoholics for forty years. It owns two houses where alcoholics are permitted to live while they are recovering, but Tower Hamlets Council is threatening to remove its grant. The charity mission statement states: ‘It is our firm belief that a personal Christian faith offers the greatest hope, most effective dynamic and surest foundation for sustainable recovery and personal development. We want to make this faith accessible to our service-users while at the same time offering our services to people of any faith or none without obligation to engage in any exploration, observance or instruction of a specifically Christian nature.’ Tower Hamlets Council wants it to say: ‘We will do nothing to promote our faith’, which the Trust has rejected.

In the UK, around 20% of charities have a religious basis, and it is testimony to the faith that the vast majority of these are Christian. While few doubt that their involvement in society is very much needed, the foundation upon which they are built is under concerted attack from increasingly aggressive secular authorities. They may no longer employ Christians, for that is ‘discrimination’; they may no longer talk of their faith, for that is ‘anti-diversity’; and they may no longer explain their morality, for that is ‘intolerance’.

As one looks at the moral state of the country - prostitutes, homeless, gambling, drunks, drug addicts, over-crowded prisons, anti-social behaviour - there is no doubt that we live in a sinful and broken world. Christians have a unique answer to these ills, which goes far deeper than any government-led solution, and has been proven to be effective over two millennia. The faith base of much charity work is the precise motivation which urges believers to help those who are less fortunate, yet now that faith is deemed ‘inappropriate’.

New Labour has done more to undermine the Christian foundations of the United Kingdom than any previous government in history. The party that was built on sacred motives has become the most secular. It therefore comes as no surprise that the Christian Socialist Movement is in crisis, and therein lies a distinct opportunity for Christians in the Conservative Party to articulate their vision. The secularisation process of the past decade has outstripped that of the preceding three centuries, and while Christians on the Government benches have been mute, those in the Conservative Party have been networking, listening, and praying. While some may assert that our social context has become post-Christian, it is not for any government to hasten the demise of the Judeo-Christian worldview. It alone has revealed to the world the light and liberty that is eternal, and it must therefore contend with the culture, confront the zeitgeist, and endure the consequent ridicule and persecution that was foretold.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why education must never become an EU competence

A number of EU member states either have laws which expressly prohibit home-schooling, or actively persecute those parents who exert their freedom to educate their children as they wish. It is little known that Germany still sends in uniformed police officers to physically remove children from their families, enforcing the home-schooling ban which originated with Hitler. Mandatory public school attendance, and the accompanying procedures to physically escort children to schools, were legalised under the Nazis in 1938. Hitler was concerned at that time about having children grow up with perspectives that were not approved by the state. It is somewhat disturbing that the Fuhrer's law is still enforced.

The targeted parents are all Christians, whose faith encourages them to act upon their principles, but the fierceness of the authorities’ reaction is telling. The dispute is primarily about who controls the hearts and minds of children. In Germany, schools have become vehicles of state indoctrination where children are brought up to unquestioningly accept its authority in all areas of life.

This particular case concerns a 16-year-old girl, who has been placed in a child psychiatry unit after she turned in below-expected grades in maths and Latin. In a European Union which is supposed to protect freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, the education officials of Germany have warned that they will ‘bring the religious convictions of the family into line’ with state requirements. According to reports, a decision was recently handed down by the European Court of Human rights which completely turned the European Union Constitution's Article 14 on its head. This article concerned the right of parents to control the education of their children; a right which is fiercely guarded by the Roman Catholic Church. The European Convention on Human Rights states: ‘No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.’

But the court's ruling said, instead, that schools ‘represent society’, and ‘it was in the children's interest to become part of that society… The parents' right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience.’

In the former Soviet Union, Baptists were among the most fiercely persecuted. They distrusted the state, and advocated secession from state-run institutions. That such a mentality is permeating members of the EU is concerning, though perhaps unsurprising. An institution founded on ‘human rights’ is almost obliged to deify such rights, and these include the rights of children. When one looks at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the foundations already exist for a global ban on home-schooling, which will result in children all being taught to be ‘good citizens of the world’, and to respect the UN as the world government.

It is perhaps no accident that children of the EU are now being taught to think in terms of ‘Europe’ rather than the nation of their birth. While the majority of the present generation of adults may vote no in any referendum on the EU's constitution, with the millions of euros spent on free EU 'information' for schools, it is only a matter of time before the majority is brainwashed into believing 'Europe - our future'.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Parliament of Saints?

The United Kingdom has a corrupt, discredited, sleaze-ridden Labour government, yet the media is choosing to focus on the dawning probability that David Cameron smoked marijuana while he was at Eton College. This, it is asserted, renders him incapable of formulating any credible drugs policy as HM Leader of the Opposition, or of even questioning the Government’s drugs policies in his role as a constituency MP.

When one’s actions as a 15-year-old become a legitimate foundation for doubting one’s integrity as a 40-year-old, it is not only time to confront the media’s puerile obsessions, but to ask what sort of Parliament we want. If one has had a lifetime of experience in the ‘real’ world, it is likely that one comes with ‘baggage’. In order to avoid these ‘embarrassments’, it is increasingly the case that our parliamentarians left school, went to university to read politics, became an undergraduate expert on almost everything, became a parliamentary researcher, and were then promoted on a favoured ‘list’ system to be an MP. They are virgins in every sense except the one to which the term used to apply.

There may indeed be some personal choices or participation in pursuits which may render one unfit for certain offices of state. It has been said that homosexuality might be a legitimate bar from those government posts which relate directly to the issue: how can a homosexual be the minister with responsibility for families? But even this may not be as clear-cut as a vegetarian minister purporting to promote British beef, or a teetotal minister with responsibility for licensing. These, of course, are not matters of illegal behaviour, and drug-taking is. But if Mr Cameron smoked marijuana when he was 15, or even if he snorted coke when he was 21, Cranmer does not care. It is not that drug-taking is a pursuit which should be ignored, but the reality is that Mr Cameron has moved on, and his ethics have matured with his years. His sins may have returned to haunt him, but in a democracy it is for the British people to decide the extent to which those past sins are acceptable. The more reformed and redeemed characters there are in Parliament, the greater is our hope of moral and social progress.

Since Cranmer is subsidising the BBC’s harassment of Mr Cameron today, in the interests of fairness and impartiality, he hopes to see the entire Cabinet questioned on the sins of their youth over the coming days.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Gordon meets the Pope – the next king is anointed

Gordon Brown has become the first Chancellor of the Exchequer to be granted a private audience with the Pope. The honour is usually reserved for religious leaders, monarchs, and heads of state, and the audience is largely perceived as Pope Benedict’s recognition that the next leader of the United Kingdom will be a latter-day John Knox – a Scottish puritan.

The visit to Rome was officially to promote a scheme to provide life-saving vaccines to children in the developing world. Very laudable, and just the sort of high-profile global initiative Mr Brown uses to affirm his presence on the world stage. The Chancellor gave the Pope a book of sermons by his father, who was a Church of Scotland minister (though Cranmer doubts very much that this will end up in the Vatican library), and he also reiterated the invitation given by Mr Blair last year to visit these Protestant shores.

The timing couldn’t be better for the Chancellor. Labour has alienated much of its core Roman Catholic electorate in recent arguments over faith schools and gay adoption. Mr Brown needed a media coup to reinvigorate his campaign and affirm his own traditional Labour values, and he has found it in Pope Benedict XVI.

The Scottish Presbyterian may be more a theological soul-mate of the Pope than the Anglo-Catholic Blair. Conveniently, Mr Brown has failed to vote on every occasion that issues of ‘gay rights’ have come before the House of Commons. He failed to support (among other things) the abolition of Section 28, civil partnerships, and the Government's Equality Act. He is not therefore tarnished with Mr Blair’s ‘anti-Catholic’ equalities agenda.

The Chancellor will therefore be content to let this run its course. He will sit and watch passively as the dying months of Mr Blair’s premiership are marked by the desertion of hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholic voters, and the humiliation of Labour in some of its traditional heartlands. And then he will enter No 10, and the Holy Papa will arrive on the shores of the United Kingdom, and the Papists shall return to their Labour home - just in time for the General Election.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Israel - God's elect or Satan's spawn?

Since Israel was established in 1948, the land has become a vibrantly civil society. Homes have all the necessary basics, all children receive a quality, free education, and the elderly receive pensions. All have access to quality health care, irrespective of age, religion, or employment status. The land of Israel is fulfilling in this age what God exhorted it to do throughout the Old Testament - to pursue justice, to care for widows and orphans, to welcome strangers – and its strength and compassion are a beacon in a region of darkness,

If one were to believe much of the media reporting on Israel, it is a land obsessed with its wealth and military prowess, by a conceit that it is God’s ‘chosen people’, and an arrogance that the land is theirs in perpetuity. Jews flout international law, they alienate, build fences, persecute Muslims, and arbitrarily kill women and children.

This is the Arab-Muslim complaint, and the one largely swallowed by the world’s intelligentsia. The Muslim mantra is really no different to that propagated by the Nazis, and the end result is a global increase in anti-semitism, which goes largely unreported in the media – the Jews have ‘brought it on themselves’ and somehow ‘deserve it’.

Cranmer would like it known that Israel is a land of compassion, of generosity, and hospitality. Arab-Israelis have a standard of living higher than any of their brethren living in the region, and they have full citizenship which permits them to be elected to public office. Muslims are able to pursue successful careers in law, medicine, business and diplomacy. They have the freedom to worship, associate and assemble, and to speak freely without fear of intimidation or oppression. It is an undeniable fact that the freest Arabs in the Middle East are those in the Jewish state of Israel.

So the next time you hear sympathies for the plight of Palestinians, support for Hamas or Hizbullah, or expressions of understanding for the frustrations of Tehran and Damascus, please remember the nation with whom the Western world shares most. The next time some ill-informed Bishop in the Church of England demands action against Israel, or a boycott of Israeli goods, or conveys the impression that its supporters are supping with the Devil, consider those with whom God might just well be pleased. While the extremists launch missiles upon Israeli villages, or send suicide bombers into buses, bars, and markets, consider that Israel may be imperfect, but like all democracies, it is a land of tolerance, liberty, and justice. It is why many Arabs choose to live there, and they do, peacefully alongside their Semitic cousins.

Its borders are therefore worth protecting, militarily, if necessary.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Muslims finance school's fight to ban niqab

A Muslim group has stepped in to assist Wycombe High School in its legal battle to prevent a student wearing the niqab. According to The Daily Telegraph, the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford has confirmed in writing to the head teacher that it is prepared to contribute to a fighting fund. In addition, the group has offered to organise a national campaign to oppose ‘this largely Saudi-driven campaign to make the niqab a compulsory requirement for Muslim women’.

The family who wish their 12-year-old daughter to wear a niqab has been granted legal aid to fight a human rights case, so tax-payers are footing their bill. But Buckinghamshire County Council, the local authority for the school, has been unwilling to underwrite the school’s legal costs, which could be as high as £500,000. One of Cranmer’s communicants speculated that their reluctance may have more to do with the faith of their Cabinet spokesperson for secondary schools, and the reality that he is facing local elections in a few months. Cllr Zahir Mohammed has indeed been curiously silent on the whole issue.

Buckinghamshire County Council has behaved appallingly in this case. It claims to support the right of its schools to set their own uniform policies, yet refuses to assist one of them when that policy is challenged. If the school is forced to admit a student wearing a niqab, it could potentially render any policy on uniform unenforceable, and any school may consequently be threatened with legal action.

The Director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, Dr Hargey, tells the school that the father's insistence on his daughter wearing the niqab was a ‘non-Islamic imposition upon your institution'. He continues: ‘We are strongly committed to offering you our full and unequivocal support in banning face-masks at school. We trust that you will continue to resist any move to implement this kind of minority ethnic obsession, which has no foundation whatsoever in the transcendent sources of Islamic law.’

Cranmer is full of admiration for such a clear refutation of what is manifestly a divisive political ideology.

The Government’s latest plan to combat religious segregation is ‘multi-faith schools’. Cranmer can’t wait to hear further details, but according to The Independent, ‘If the academies become popular and oversubscribed, selection will be by lottery to avoid one faith getting a stranglehold.’

Fools. Do they not realise that God uses lotteries to achieve his ends (Prov 18:18; Jnh 1:7; Acts 1:26)?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Give us this day our Referendum

…and deliver us from evil?

David Cameron states in The Sunday Telegraph: ‘With reform, Europe can be a force for good’. Cranmer would like to respond with the equally fatuous declaration: ‘With wings, pigs can fly’, but he realises that this does nothing to move the analysis forward. What is interesting, however, is the implicit message of Mr Cameron’s statement, which must be: ‘Without reform, Europe can be a force for evil’.

We are already witnessing the German drive for a revived constitution and an ‘official’ history of Europe, which Professor Norman Stone has rejected as ‘quite absurd’. Such sinister moves have absolutely nothing to do with issues of economics or trade, and everything to do with defining the ‘soul’ of political union, the search for which Chancellor Merkel has dedicated her presidency.

Mr Cameron calls for a ‘new EU’, and one which rejects the old idea of ‘ever-closer union’. He decries the EU’s ‘endemic flaws’: its obsession with ‘centralisation’, debates ‘behind closed doors’, the ‘focus on itself rather than the world outside’, and also the EU’s determination ‘to press ahead with a new European Constitution’. He calls such an agenda ‘perverse’. Mr Cameron identifies the part played by the Common Agricultural Policy in global poverty, and therefore calls for major reforms, including reduced tariffs for African countries. In short, he calls for an EU of ‘flexibility…, economic dynamism and free trade’.

Mr Cameron thereby makes known his wish-list: open markets, a Europe of nation states, and a strong Atlantic relationship. The problems? His MEPs are still members of the EPP, which is constitutionally bound to the rejection of all three, and he fails to state what he will do to achieve his dream. How will he ‘modify’ the foundational principle of ‘ever closer union’? How does he propose to amend the Treaty of Rome? How will he handle the German and French repudiation of this Anglo-Saxon thesis? How does he propose to succeed where Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair failed?

It is difficult, if not impossible, to view anything that Mr Cameron says on the EU as anything but sophistry and salesmanship. One wants, desperately, to believe him. But when one does, one is left disillusioned and disappointed.

Like the EPP debacle, Mr Cameron refuses to engage in the consequences of his rhetoric: how does he propose to repatriate powers? How does he propose to transform the 'Brussels culture'? At least Michael Howard had a manifesto pledge to repatriate British fishing waters, which would have had seismic consequences for Britain's EU relations, but Mr Cameron has ditched even that. Why does he not do the simplest thing, and promise us a referendum? Such a policy would be hugely popular, reinforce his democratic credentials, and scupper UKIP completely.

Until there is a policy explaining ‘how’, there is absolutely no credibility at all to be found in Mr Cameron’s EU rhetoric. What is certain, however, is that there is absolutely no point trying to pour new wine into old wineskins. They just burst (Matthew 9:17).

Saturday, February 03, 2007

David Cameron: ‘sexuality trumps religion’

In The Daily Telegraph, David Cameron states: Of course I want to keep the Roman Catholic adoption agencies. They do an amazing job in placing hard to place children and they perform a vital role but I’m passionate that in this country we have one law that is obeyed by everybody.
And this is vitally important in the whole debate about how we need to sweep away the failed multiculturalism. I don’t think it would be right to allow carve outs for Muslim groups or Hindu groups or whoever, so that means one law that everyone has to obey. And that’s why I don’t think a block exemption for catholic adoption agencies would be right but by all means give them time to find a way through the new rules.

Unfortunately, Mr Cameron’s knowledge of Conservative philosophy is as insecure as his knowledge of the Constitution of the United Kingdom.

The violation of a person’s dignity by refusing goods or services because of their sexuality has an equivalence in law, which is the violation of a person’s dignity by refusing goods or services because of their race or religion. The provision of anti-discrimination legislation in the minority area of sexual orientation does not negate the provision of anti-discrimination legislation in the minority area of religion. Under Human Rights legislation, one has the right to freely practise one’s religion, and therefore exemptions to this law must be permitted. If not, there will emerge a hierarchy of rights in which sexual orientations override all religious rights. How does the Equalities Minister intend to resolve this? What says the new Commission on Equalities and Human Rights?

As for those communicants who have sent Cranmer some rather nasty correspondence, accusing him of bigotry, hatred, ignorance, ‘Cathophobia’, and a host of other unpleasantness, he asks them to consider:

Prior to 1 January, when the SOR were to become law in Northern Ireland, there were protests from thousands of Christians, their leaders, and prominent Protestant politicians. The Government, and the Opus Dei Equalities Minister, ignored the lot.

Prior to the incorporation of the legislation into English law, hundreds of Bible-believing Christians, along with some Muslims, held a peaceful protest outside Parliament. The Government, and the Opus Dei Equalities Minister, ignored the lot.

But the very moment a Cardinal of the Church of Rome writes to the Government, the Opus Dei Equalities Minister seeks an exemption. Not for Christians, you understand, but for Roman Catholics.

In the vernacular of some of His Grace's North American communicants: ‘Go figure.’

Friday, February 02, 2007

Baroness Cox: ‘Militant Islam poses the greatest threat to our culture’

While The Guardian persists in its multicultural mantra that Islam and Britishness are not incompatible, The Jerusalem Post has covered a speech made by Baroness Cox of Queensbury in the House of Lords, in which she asserted: ‘The threat of a militant and totalitarian form of Islam poses the greatest threat to our cultures today, and Israel is standing at the front-lines of this struggle against militant Islam which would destroy the values of our societies.’

Cranmer is unsure if there is or can be a non-totalitarian form of Islam, but The Guardian concedes there is a distinction to be drawn. The concern for them is not Islam, but ‘a particular type of politicised religious identity’. It includes ‘anti-western feelings’, and a sense of ‘victimisation’.

Ideological Islam, which Paul Goodman has termed ‘Islamism’, is increasingly viewed at Westminster as being incompatible with liberal democracy. It is antithetical the Judeo-Christian foundation of the United Kingdom; to the ‘spiritual, political and cultural values on which this nation has been based over the centuries’. Fusing faith and freedom, the Baroness implicitly defended the Protestant Settlement which has made the United Kingdom what it is, bestowing religious liberty upon all subjects of Her Majesty.

Other speakers at the meeting compared Islamism to the threat posed by Soviet Communism, with one stating that it was reminiscent of the threat of Nazi Germany. ‘We feel ourselves living in the 1930s all over again,’ the Baroness said. The choice before us is between appeasement and confrontation. The former is permitting the Islamist creed to spread; the latter is seen as politically unacceptable to the short-term shallowness of contemporary politics.

In his comparison of the Shari’a-obsessed Islamists with the BNP, did David Cameron give an indication of future Conservative policy on this crucial matter? He warned: "If we want to live together, we need to bring down the barriers that divide us. And today, I can feel the barriers going up, not coming down." He continued: "The BNP pretend to be respectable, but their creed is pure hate.”

Eschewing all notions of multiculturalism, rejecting the (over-)sensitivities of the Mohammedans, could it be that the Conservative leader is really more Churchill than Chamberlain?
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