Prayer mats and puja in the Houses of Parliament
The House of Lords is trying to move towards multi-faith prayers in its chamber. There is, apparently, a degree of admiration for the ‘enlightened’ manner in which the US Senate approaches prayer before official proceedings, and moves are afoot to emulate this approach. As far as Cranmer is aware, this has not been formally discussed, and neither have the Lords Spiritual made any comment (though many may be in agreement with it…), but the revelation comes from the blog of Baroness Julia Neuberger, the Liberal Democrat peer and rabbi. Yet the agenda is not merely reported, but advocated. She states:
It is a very good thing if a Hindu chaplain opens the senate proceedings with prayer.
We are just beginning to try to move away from the only prayers (every day, before proceedings start) in the House of the Lords in the UK being conducted by the Church of England bishops. There is no sign of a move. I cannot comment on church and state divides, but in terms of
having prayers at all, it is a huge improvement to have people of all faiths conducting the prayers from time to time, and it works very well in the Scottish parliament.
There may be ‘no signs of a move’, but the Baroness clearly reveals the intention and her belief that such a development would be ‘a huge improvement’. And who is this 'we'? Cranmer won’t comment on her feeling that prayers led by Church of England bishops needs improving upon, but it is a wonder indeed that a rabbi should be agitating for such a reform. She is manifestly ignorant of the differences that exist between a state from which the church is divided, and one in which it is established. Britain is ruled by the Crown in parliament, which means that laws and decisions are made by the Monarch as represented and advised by her government with the support of both Houses of Parliament. That Monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the prayers in both Houses are not a formality before official proceedings; they are part of the official proceedings. The prayers of Her Majesty’s bishops are not only symbolic of the relationship between the two, but express the literal subjection of both to Almighty God. They constitute part of the Christian fabric of the nation and, although there is no codification of parliamentary procedures, they exist manifestly by historic convention through centuries of practice.
But Baroness Neuberger has no regard for any of this. She would rather see a multi-faith mish-mash of puja, salah, prayers, meditations and incantations. She might even be content to see Shambo (or rather his reincarnation) entering the Lords’ chamber as a manifestation of the divine. It is interesting that she is presently working on two books - one ‘on death and dying’, and the other ‘on why religion is so important in the rather godless United Kingdom’. It is perhaps apt that she appears to be working on both tomes simultaneously.
But while the Baroness views such prayers as ethnic entertainment and a necessary politically-correct piece of theatre, there is a rather more serious religio-political dimension to the proposal. For the Christians serving in the High Court of Parliament, their prayers are going daily to the secret place of the Most High. The Father listens as the Holy Spirit guides and the Son mediates. The prayers are efficacious, and able to change lives, homes, relationships, characters, careers, and nations. Such intercessions to the Throne of Grace are made in the certain knowledge that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is in command of the affairs of man, and that God is also the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer is not simply a privilege or responsibility; it is the greatest power that God has bequeathed to man.
And (importantly for Cranmer) it is these prayers which preface legislation relating to the Church of England, for it is Parliament that authorises the Book of Common Prayer, and it is Parliament that decrees the administration and sacraments, the rites and ceremonies, and the manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests and deacons. The status of the Church of England, and, indeed, of the Monarch herself, are dependent on an Act of Parliament, because Parliament is omnipotent under God. It is unthinkable that such legislative procedures could be presaged by prayers to what many Christians believe to be false gods and idols.
With interesting timing, The Times reports today of two Mohammedan MPs who insist that Parliament ‘must address its attitudes towards the rising prominence of ethnic minorities’. In the article, Shahid Malik MP talks of the need for Parliament to adopt ‘the language or discourse that we would think is acceptable’.
It is through the perpetual allusions to victimhood, and the eroding reiteration of discrimination, that Brahman, Waheguru and Allah will be worshipped in the Palace of Westminster. YHWH would simply be one in a pantheon of gods, and could not even be the chief deity, for all would have to be ‘equal’. And why is this significant? Well, one of these is more equal than the others, and asserts an acutely political agenda, which is for Parliament to adopt ‘the language or discourse that we would think is acceptable’. And once Parliament has adopted what they think is acceptable, spiritual sovereignty is transferred. One cannot serve two masters.