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.


Anonymous Miss Jelly Bean said...

It's hardly surprising that you're having to face such a predicament. How can you converge religion with secularism where at one point you're demanding equal rights and freedom, and at another point you preach your Christian beliefs which defy such secular principles.
You can't live under such a system where the word of God contradicts the word of man. (It's a democracy, not a theocracy)

15 February 2007 at 10:44  
Anonymous Oiznop said...

It's too late for the Tories to do anything about it. Cameron is wedded to 'equality' legislation, and that means a relativist aproach to religions - they're all different, but equal. The faith base is being of the Constitution is being got rid of, and the end result will be disestablishment.

15 February 2007 at 11:39  
Blogger Serf said...

You can't live under such a system where the word of God contradicts the word of man. (It's a democracy, not a theocracy)

His Grace is not asking for a theocracy, but rather for the end of militant secularism. The idea that we would be better off replacing the devout with the marxist, in the provision of services is ridiculous.

15 February 2007 at 12:13  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

The secularism of this Government is in effect an alternative religion and will not tolerate any rivals. This is inevitable, given the Government's belief that it must regulate every aspect of our lives. Jelly Bean is right.

15 February 2007 at 12:31  
Blogger tim said...

It sounds like it's time for another revival. Think how the religious life of the country was changed in the 18th century. I get the impression that in England, the pastors of the church are mostly fighting rear-guard actions, trying to hold on to the dwindling numbers of church-goers they have now. It's time to reach out, to do missionary work inside the country. To bring in those who haven't been religious. Not by shallow entertainment value of the service, but by the force of the preaching. It's happened before. Is the time right again?

15 February 2007 at 14:30  
Blogger Newmania said...

No we do not live in a theocracy and we never did. Common Law the defining English invention proceeds from cases not from on high and the Church was alway in an idiosyncratic accommodation with its competing claims and was the monarchy. Even Parliament was originally conceived as a high court.
What is foreign ,is an over mighty state claiming sole access to authority . As the tide of statute , political law and bureaucratic management sweep up the shallow beach everything in its path will be at risk. The churches , of course, intermediate organisations like charities and voluntary bodies before finally it reaches its last great enemy , the family itself, the very home.

When the state feels it has a role in exhorting models to be less thin we should perhaps laugh at its presumption to know what is best for a child. Sometimes I do , but today I feel so weary of it all.

15 February 2007 at 14:31  
Blogger recyclist said...

What has secularism got to do with discrimination against the majority faith? How does the separation of church and state result in a council employee's frankly idiotic and insulting assertion that a christian woman, willing to take on perhaps the most difficult of fostering responsibilities, was unsuitable because of her religion? The idea that "rendering unto Caesar" culminates in Tower Hamlet's Council threatening to withdraw a grant to christians who help alcoholics is quite absurd.

Recycle - it's good for you!

15 February 2007 at 14:38  
Anonymous Alexandrian said...

In practice, it seems that every society that does not (in some way) establish the Christian faith and give it official status, will eventually end up discriminating against those who hold to the Christian faith.

There is no such thing as neutrality.

15 February 2007 at 15:11  
Blogger wrinkled weasel said...

I agree with everything you have said and understand why you are saying it, but, Your Grace, what about Grace?

You don't need to be a registered charity to do God's work - or for that matter, and Church.

I personally do not feel this present time will last. I have gone on before about the predominance of the aetheistic liberal elite and the impossibility of their philosophical position. It will crumble because they have left God out of it. It will crumble because, one by one, each spurious tenet will be exposed as fraudulent and sectarian and bankrupt.

As for Christians perhaps we are ready for disengagement in secular life; a new monasicism is perhaps the answer, a re-alighnment in order to seek the spiritual and to re-learn what we have forgotten, whilst at the same time to contribute and to be aware of, and in, the world.

Where are the wise men? When was the last time you met somone you considered to be truly spiritual and enlightened by it.

Maybe, instead of this manic phobia about those who persecute us, we should be looking inward and attempting to "cross the abyss which separates us from ourselves"

15 February 2007 at 15:16  
Anonymous Miss Jelly Bean said...

His Grace is not asking for a theocracy, but rather for the end of militant secularism.

Yeh, well I think his grace is asking for the unattainable. A journey must presuppose a destination and there must be full awareness of the objective at hand and its purpose. Religion, it seems, has lost its route since people no longer utilise it for good.
Like I said, religion and secularism cannot converge. Religion can be used to remove militant secularism, but instead is being used as a scapegoat to achieve ones political means.

15 February 2007 at 17:07  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Like I said, religion and secularism cannot converge

I hope that did not cause you a headache, profound it was not.

The State has no legitimacy, it is despised and lacks any democratic foundation since elections are in some aspects fraudulent. In the North of England compulsory postal balloting in 2004 led to huge fraud in areas of high ethnic concentration.

The State is over-reaching itself in an attempt to compensate for its diminishing status. It will probably crack like the East German State as people turned to the Protestant Church and marched in Leipzig saying "We Are The People".

In fact most people have detached themselves from The State - yes they are prepared to suck cash out of it - but not really to respect its tentacles - whether Police or Courts or CSA or DWP or BBC or whatever - people have simply switched off from political parties and the system.

Once the churches show themselves to be in confrontation with The State the public will join them. The churches to date have been too complicit with The State, too much part of the same Guardian Ideology and too irresolute.

It will be interesting to see England's next Catholic Primate and then to see when Rowan Williams retires from Canterbury. His trip to Tanzania should be unpleasant and the split in Anglicanism more pronounced by Lambeth 2008.

Someone like Nazir-Ali might be an interesting replacement - then the churches can really start to engage against a dying Labour regime and the pospect of a hung parliament.

I don't think The State has much hope. It did before SMS and Blogging but today it does not control communications technology nor does it have the power to influence.

The USSR was doomed the day software replaced steel mills and software-engineers needed to think; and now the beauty of Open Source software is that the State is just another customer not the guardian of know-how.

Protestantism is perfect for the software age - it can be cellular without need for churches or infrastructure and can build on the resolution of The Calvinist and the Baptist rather than the accommodating stance of Anglicanism.

15 February 2007 at 18:35  
Blogger wrinkled weasel said...

Voyager's thesis appears worthy of a book! I certainly understand his points about the shrinking authority of the state in a world where information is no longer under state control. I hope he will feel up to unpacking some of his points.

And why should the state be in control? Why should we prop up an increasingly self-serving edifice?

Let's turn this apparent set back (local authority censure of Christians) on it's head. We don't need the "People's Republic of Hackney" or anything like it. We can do it ourselves thank you very much. and we will.

15 February 2007 at 21:01  
Anonymous Colin said...

"The churches to date have been too complicit with The State,"

The intellectuals (including priests) were and always are complicit with The State because the market value for second-hand ideas is rather low. For making a living, intellectuals (priests) sold and still sell their skills of persuasion not to the masses but to rulers. Those making a living by using force (politicians) need the abilities of the intellectuals to convince the masses that their exploitation is legitimate.

In all agricultural societies, priests legitimized the exploitation of working peasants by armed robbers (i.e. feudalism) as the natural order established by Gods. Hegel replaced the Christian God by the God of History.

The end of monarchic rule made the legitimisation of power by religious intellectuals (priests) dispensable. The new oligarchic rulers needed a new legitimisation as cover-up for exploitation. Again, intellectuals delivered the required legitimisation for a living and influence. They replaced God's law by natural law, Hell by social injustice (poverty, capitalism, facism, racism etc.), Heaven by equality, God by democracy and enthroned The State as King. Professors of philosophy, sociology, politology and other "experts" became the high-priests of the new state religion. Journalists fulfill the function of priests by daily preaching their sermons of salvation to the masses not from pulpits but from TV channels and other MSM.

« Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. »

In conclusion, Little black Sambo is right: It "is in effect an alternative religion and will not tolerate any rivals."

Christianity has become dispensable as legitimisation for power, whereas the secular priests are indispensable for the justification of ever more taxes and power for the ruling oligarchies. Hence, the multiplication of NGO's and their priests funded by the state.

"Once the churches show themselves to be in confrontation with The State the public will join them."

Voyager's statement is probably correct. However, since the public is unlikely to grant them as many privileges as The State does, the former are likely to continue to support the latter.

I know, I know. Everybody will try to demonstate that I am wrong. And hopefully I am. What we need to disprove this unpleasant thesis, is an historic event showing a reversal of secularisation. Such an event happened in ancient Rome and in contemporary Iran. In ancient Rome, the rulers adopted a new religion more convincing for the masses than the Roman Gods. This new religion was Christianity. Does Islam now play the same role? In contemporary Iran, the more secular rule of the Shah was replaced by a theocratic regime. I am looking forward to a firestorm of disprovals.

15 February 2007 at 22:49  
Blogger botogol said...

Your post correctly hits an important trend/issue, but I think you've identified a symptom, not the issue beneath.

The real lessons to be learned is not that the state should look more kindly on religious charities, rather

1 - The state shouldn't provide funding for religious bodies at all. Were it not for the funding the state would be able to adopt an appropriate laissez-faire attitude, leaving those hostels to run themselves. Funding brings with it responsibility and accountability, necessarily dragging the state into areas where it has no business to be.

2 - conversely, for their own good, religious bodies should not accept state funding. Accepting funding means ceding control, and are the weaker for it. In the long run they would be stronger - and I believe richer even - without state help

3 - I think you are right about the effect of this government on religious charities, but I don't think its an intended effect - rather the government (or some parts of the government) have set out to promote religious bodies eg to run schools. What you are observing with schools is an example of a law of unintended consequences; in supporting fuzzy concepts like diversity, tolerance and non-discrimination to protect minorities such as faith groups, it simply didn't occur to them that it was these self same minorities and faith groups that, generally speaking, are the ones indulging in intolerance and discrimination

It still hasn't sunk in. This is a battleground and we're only seeing the start of it. I think the govt has carelessly stirred up much trouble

15 February 2007 at 22:58  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The Church does NOT receive State funding. It depends upon its own resources.

In areas where redundant churches are made into Community Centres these are funded by the Councils which require all religious symbolism to be removed.

They finance mosques as "community centres" without such a stipulation such as in Tower Hamlets where both EU and taxpayer funds were used.

The simple fact is that Churches have conducted charitable activities for at least 2000 years - the Church of England may be unique in that it ministers to non-Anglicans - but in performing certain activities such as Social Work or Youth Work it does get some funding from The State for that activity.

The State now seeks to control that activity but if the Church withdraws that activity will no longer be done.

This is exactly the kind of harassment which took place under the Hitler regime in the early years to drive the Protestant Church into submission to The State and to drive the Catholic Church to the point of silence for fear of expropriation

If the Church is under attack it will be the Individual next. If the answer on this Blog is to refuse to pay taxes, or refuse to obey laws, I wonder if the Individual will be as successful as the Church in resisting Absolutism

16 February 2007 at 06:59  
Blogger botogol said...

The Church does NOT receive State funding. It depends upon its own resources

But of course it does - for instance every single church state school in the country.

How many schools does the CoE manage to run without any state funding? none.

16 February 2007 at 08:09  
Blogger recyclist said...

Can someone please explain what the decisions of a few council dim-wits has to do with secularism? If someone is a homophobic intolerant religious nutcase, they probably are an unsuitable foster parent.

16 February 2007 at 08:54  
Anonymous Voyager said...

But of course it does - for instance every single church state school in the country.

They aren't really Church Schools - go look at the "funding". They are almost 100% funded by the Govt and admissions policies are decided by the LEA. Round here C of E Schools are full with Muslim children.

C of E Schools are a joke - it is a middle-class brand-warpper on a bog-standard state school except maybe in Twee Little England down south - but in the North C of E = slum school or Muslim

16 February 2007 at 09:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If someone is a homophobic intolerant religious nutcasebr/>
Are you suggesting that foster-parents are such ? Do you have specific instances...and why is homosexuality now the main credo in society ?

What is your sexuality recyclist ? and your postman ? and your dustbin man ? Why the obsession with homosexuality ?

WE have nothing but a daily diet of Islam, Homosexuality, Football and Iraq

16 February 2007 at 09:18  
Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

As a member of an independent church with no connection at all with the state I urge the Anglican community to loose its bonds to secularism. The Church is strongest when it opposes the worldly ways of government. While it depends on the state for money it should not be surprised if the piper-payer wants to call the tune. In England we still have the immense privilege that when we give to the Church the government gives us back the money we have already paid in tax on that amount. It does not need to. If church members were really serious in their giving, there would be no need to look to the state for funds. We could run our charities, our orphanges, our schools, our adoption agencies according to God's law.

16 February 2007 at 09:25  
Anonymous Voyager said...

We could run our charities, our orphanges, our schools, our adoption agencies according to God's law.

Not so because ALL come under the control of The State and its rules and inspections. I think you can rest assured that if the Church paid the full £28.000 per child from, its own funds per adoption it would still be subject to Govt inspection and control.

When a gym operating a free creche for exercising mothers is told by Blunkett Directive to employ trained teachers and instruct these children in basics of numbers and colours - you can understand why the Creche is closed.

When a Childminder in her own home is inspected at her expense by Ofsted and required to have a selection of dolls of various racial features to cater for the off-chance one of her charges might one day be black, you can see that there is no separation or exemption from The State.

16 February 2007 at 09:46  
Blogger recyclist said...

Well "Anonymous" took the bait! I simply reiterated Kensington and Chelsea Council's reasons for denying a good woman the opportunity to foster. We have an established church with a constitutional monach at it's head. Our society is still predominately christian. Yet somehow being christian makes you unsuitable to foster. The madness at work here is not secularism.

I would expect a foster parent of any religion to be "accepting of a childs sexuality" and to assist the child in pursuing whatever religion it wished to. To do less would certainly be un-Christian!

16 February 2007 at 12:22  
Anonymous Voyager said...

with a constitutional monach at it's head.

Not so....The Head of The Church is Jesus Christ.

The Supreme Governor of The Church of England is The Monarch

The Leading Cleric in the Church of england and Archbishop of The Southern Dioceses is The Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of the Northern Dioceses is the Archbishop of York

16 February 2007 at 13:26  
Blogger recyclist said...

The Supreme Govenor is the head of the Anglican church. I have it on good authority that the Head of the Anglican Church is still a Catholic, and that an infinite number of angels dance on every pin-head.

16 February 2007 at 14:19  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The Supreme Govenor is the head of the Anglican church.

You can persist in error but error it remains. The Head of the Church is Jesus Christ - the Church is the Body

16 February 2007 at 15:50  
Blogger recyclist said...

A little too subtle for Sr. Voyager? The Head may be J.C., but the Queen most is definately at the top - i.e. the "head". Little did they suspect in 1559 that the Second Act could lead to such lofty theologigal discussion, all because thy didn't like girls.

I have it on good authority that the Head of the Church of England would have declined the role had anyone bothered to ask him.

16 February 2007 at 16:12  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Strange since it was Mary who repealed the 1534 Act in 1555 with "Supreme Head" and Elizabeth who had "Supreme Governor" in the 1559 Act......and Art 37 of the XXXIX Articles makes plain

"The King's majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other of his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction ... We give not to our Princes the ministering either of God's Word, or of the Sacraments ... but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all Godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself; that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their change by God, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoers ... The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England."

16 February 2007 at 16:45  

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