Friday, November 30, 2007

Cristina Odone: a carol service ‘too Christian’ for church?

As the UK is judged to be becoming increasingly secular, so the ‘ownership’ of Christmas is frequently becoming an issue of dispute, and multi-faith carol services are on the rise. And these, of course, may not contain anything which people of other faiths and none may find offensive. At least that is the assertion of the Royal Commonwealth Society after it barred a prominent Roman Catholic journalist and commentator from attacking intolerance towards Christians at its annual carol service.

While Cranmer is more than a little perturbed that the singing of Advent carols should be considered a multi-faith occasion at all (since the Incarnation is unequivocally concerned with the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God, which other faiths refute), he is more incensed that this gathering was to be in a church – St Martin in the Fields – yet the message had to be ‘suitable’ for followers of minority faiths, atheists, agnostics, diplomats and politicians.

Cristina Odone had been asked to write a brief speech on ‘opportunities for all’ that could be ‘political and controversial’, and so she developed the theme of secular intolerance towards believers of all faiths, from the British Airways worker suspended for wearing a cross to the Muslim schoolgirl banned from wearing the veil – distinctly multi-faith and PC, you might think.

But not for the Royal Commonwealth Society, who said her words were not appropriate ‘because the congregation would include people of little or no faith who would be upset’. Instead, she was asked to read a passage from Bertrand Russell, a militant atheist, irrespective of upset this might offend her or other Christians.

And so Ms Odone has pulled out of the event, accusing the society of demonstrating exactly the kind of intolerance she had planned to criticise. Communicants a readers may decide for themselves, for here follows the full text of her speech deemed possibly offensive to those attending a Christmas church service:

’I wonder what the Christian children at Portree Primary school in Skye would say about equal opportunities.

Their local authority had forced them to drop the word "lord" in the grace before meals, as it was deemed offensive.

I wonder what Shabina Begum would make of equal opportunities. She was the young Muslim girl who took her school to court when it banned her from wearing the veil.

And what of Nadia Eweida? Does she think this is a country of equal opportunities? She was the woman, you may remember, who learned the hard way that a Christian may not wear a crucifix when working for BA.

When it comes to expressing their faith, this country's believers have found that opportunities are blocked. Whether it is the boss at work or the head at school, the local authority or the chattering classes, people of faith know that their worldview is under siege, and their allegiances under suspicion.

To parade this allegiance by wearing a cross, a cap or a veil is red rag to the secularist bull. For these God-bashers, it doesn't matter if you belong to the Christian majority or the Sikh minority.

Their beef is with any belief system other than their own Godless one. For them, it is not enough to exclude those who do not subscribe to their soulless scientism or their one-dimensional rationalism. Pariah status is only the first step in the punishment they mete out to those who refuse to follow their lead. There is also mockery - in public as well as in private; and outright hostility.

But ultimately nothing short of censorship will do. Secularists may criticise religions as oppressive, dogmatic and self-righteous, but this is precisely how they themselves act. They have moved to introduce bans: wearing the hijab is forbidden, ditto the use of the word Christmas, ditto the cross, and countless other symbols of belief. And we have the atheists' Newspeak, a poisonous drip-drip that tries to brainwash us into seeing people of faith as idiots, despots, bigots.

What little opportunity believers have to bear witness to their faith is being quashed. If you are black or gay or female, your plea for equal opportunity is met with respect, and your campaign is applauded by supporters. But not if you are a believer.

In a culture increasingly hostile to God and his followers, expressions of faith have become taboo. The only opportunity we have is for silence.’

Stuart Mole, the director-general of the Royal Commonwealth Society, insisted that they needed ‘to be mindful of the congregation, which will probably include quite a few drawn by the occasion and by the carols but who do not hold a deep (or even a shallow) faith’.

Well, the British Commonwealth includes Muslim countries, so when will Mr Mole insist on a multi-faith Eid Service in Regent’s Park Mosque? And when will he instruct the speakers at such an occasion that nothing from the Qur’an may be quoted in case anyone be offended? And why should the secularists freely propagate their hopeless gospel of materialism while the Church is silenced into timidity? Why should the pursuit of prosperity at any price, to material well-being as the chief goal of earthly existence, be lauded, while believers in the Lord Jesus Christ cower in passivity and retreat.

It is a topsy-turvy world indeed where expressions of faith are banned from a Christmas carol service because secularists might be offended; where the naming of Mohammed Bear results in imprisonment; where a small piece of jewellery results in losing one’s employment. With so much suffering, poverty and loneliness all around, it is time to consider the real meaning of the Incarnation during this Advent season.

Cranmer calls on the invertebrates in the Church of England to inform the Royal Commonwealth Society that Christmas carols are not merely a good sing-song on a par with ‘Down at the Old Bull and Bush’, and to remind them that their patron is Her Majesty the Queen, who is a devout believer herself and swore to uphold all the foundations of the Church of England at her coronation.

And Cranmer calls on the ecclesial authorities of St Martin in the Fields to cancel this service on the basis that it is too secular for a church.


Blogger Umbongo said...

"which other faiths refute"

Er . . "deny", I think, Your Grace

30 November 2007 at 12:40  
Anonymous mickey said...

Seems like a rant to me, your Grace. I should have thought that the Royal Commonwealth Society would be one of the most multicultural organizations one could find, short of the UN. It should be respected as such. Multiculturalism obviously has a place in the world and if not the RCS, then where?

30 November 2007 at 12:47  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Umbongo,

Some seek to refute, some deny, and others repudiate. One gets the point.

Mr Mickey,

Rant or not, it was to be delivered in a church in the context of Advent carols. Of course multiculturalism has a place in the world, but then the RCS should therefore choose a more sympathetic setting to propagate their secular creed.

30 November 2007 at 13:11  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

Well, I'm about as atheist as it gets, and I don't get offended by people wearing crosses or yarmulkes or even hijabs, so. I really do get confused when people moan about how a cross might offend people like me.

It only offends me if it's jammed in my face by an evangelist - and even then the offence is more a "Stop wasting my time with your babble" rather than "Eek, crucifix!".

...certainly if I went to a church I wouldn't be offended to see the sorts of things you might expect to see in a church. How silly is that? Did they expect the church to be sanitised of Christianity before people show up?

30 November 2007 at 14:31  
Blogger Alfred said...

Advent Carols, in a church? Very offensive.

But why does it take a person of the Roman Religion to stand up for tollerance? How the wheel has turned full circle. What has happened to the rest, who stood up for toleration in times gone passed? (Maybe your previous post on The Archbishop of Cant, answers my own question)

30 November 2007 at 15:31  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

God has been abolished, God is other people.

30 November 2007 at 15:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"yet the message had to be ‘suitable’ for followers of minority faiths, atheists, agnostics, diplomats and politicians."

Are politicians so low down the food chain?

30 November 2007 at 18:56  
Anonymous Marley's Ghost said...

Your Grace,
Some Buddhists seem to appreciate the spiritual aspects of Christmas and stress its unifying effect rather than regarding it as a cause of divisiveness.

30 November 2007 at 23:03  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Those who want to keep Christ in Advent and Christmass are well advised to remove themselves from all public celebrations related to Advent and Christmass, just as this lady has correctly done. Just about all public expressions of the faith seem to have been perverted with political correctness.

30 November 2007 at 23:12  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

"Some Buddhists seem to appreciate the spiritual aspects of Christmas and stress its unifying effect rather than regarding it as a cause of divisiveness."

There it goes again: God is other people.

30 November 2007 at 23:19  
Anonymous Sir HM said...

This is worth reading

Spread it around wherever you go.

30 November 2007 at 23:37  
Blogger Homophobic Horse said...

OT sorry: BBC goons beat up disabled people

1 December 2007 at 03:26  
Anonymous Mike H said...

It sounds like the PC-mad buffoons at the RCS should have chosen a village hall as their venue, rather than a Christian place of worship.

We have one that is available at very reasonable rates.

1 December 2007 at 10:32  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

"The invertebrates in the Church of England" - excellent! I shall use it.
What was a CHURCH doing allowing this sort of tosh on their premises?

1 December 2007 at 13:47  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

When I heard Ms Odone speak, I thought of Your Grace, and wondered whether you would write about this. And of course, I sympathise with Ms Odone and much of what you say. But I take issue with your assumption that secularists are only interested in materialism. 'The pursuit of prosperity at any price, to material well-being as the chief goal of earthly existence?'
Huh? Your Grace, you cannot possibly think that anyone who does not believe in God, must therefore have money as their only guide in life? Is it not possible to be morally good or seek to be so, without a deity? And how is it possible that not one of your communicants has picked you up on this!?

And what of Ms Odone's assumption that her poor and unacceptable treatment is about appeasing the secularists? Huh? Since when are secularists marching in the street demanding that the ones with religion abandon it? Her treatment isn't about secularism. It is about appeasing other faiths, and you know it Your Grace! Your communicant The Last Toryboy says he is not offended as an atheist by those with religion. This is a typical atheistic response. Bertrand Russell is merely put forward not because securalists believe that his way is better than the Christian way, but because it is seen as the middle way - a way of not choosing any particular faith over another and is no doubt an attempt to prevent anymore Mohammed Bear situations. Ha ha - your comment made me laugh.

One might want to argue of course that securalism has its own god and is a religion in itself - but that needs argument and justification. It cannot be an assumption which is tacitly thrown into what both you and Ms Odone say. Tut tut Your Grace.

1 December 2007 at 16:13  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Furthermore, this Ms Odone says she is being radical but her speech actually plays into the hands of the very mentality which irks her. Notice how she says 'people of faith' and talks of the Christian majority or the Sikh minority being on one side and the secularists on the other. This is a false dichotomy. And the reason she is treated badly is precisely because of these minority faiths (Islam in particular). And so when she puts all faiths together into one basket and sets them up against the big bad secularists, she invents an opposition that not only does not exist but reinforces the very PC mumbo jumbo that put her where she is in the first place.

And you, Your Grace, support this nonsensical claim in your post!

1 December 2007 at 20:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Answer is easy.Just do the Opposite to what the Godless Ones want, buy a cricifix and wear it.

2 December 2007 at 00:11  
Anonymous najistani said...

Your Grace,

I agree with Snuffleupagus. The idea of an alliance of religions against secularism and secularists will not gain much traction for a number of reasons, one of which is the very vague definition of 'secularism'.

The word 'secularism' has at least two meanings:

(1) SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. The view that religious organisations should keep out of government and vice versa. This does not preclude religious organisations advising their adherents how to vote with regard to moral issues (eg abortion), or the government forbidding religious practices which are against the law of the land (eg clitoridectomy).

A secularist in this sense would approve of the disestablishment of the Church of England and would dissapprove of 'religious identity politics', for example the government forming its policies on the basis of demands from special interest groups such as the MCB.

Holding these views does not preclude religious belief.


Materialism has at least two meanings.

(2a) Obsession with accumulating and consuming material goodies. This would be more accurately termed 'hedonism' or 'consumerism'.

Massive Christmas credit card debt does not necessarily preclude religious belief.

(2b) The philosophical belief that matter is the foundation of the universe and all mental phenomena (love, truth, beauty etc) are secondary 'epiphenomena' of physical processes. This is more accurately termed 'physicalism' and does preclude religious belief.

Most (all?) religions reject physicalism and regard the physical universe as a product of mind - either God's mind (theistic religions) or the karma of the minds of the beings who are trapped in the universe (Buddhism).

So any alliance of religious people against secularism and secularists would have to decide whether they were opposing (1) a political doctrine, (2a) a lifestyle, (2b) a philosophical view, or all three.

2 December 2007 at 13:14  
Anonymous Simon Icke said...

The religious and secular liberals are quite happy with 'wishy washy' religion. But try and preach the Gospel as it is written or declare yourself as a born again Christian or try and defend your faith against the current onslaught, from the in vogue militant atheist of our time, the likes of Richard Dawkins or Prof. A.C. Grayling. The established church will close you down, aided and abetted by the chattering classes and the trendy liberals, who still have lots of influence on Church matters, many have infiltrated the established church for their own ends; it doesn't seem to matter that they don't really believe.

What was is it the Bible says: 'They will hold to the outward form of religion but reject its real power'. 2 Timothy chap 3 v 5 And God forbid don't ever try and talk about having a personal faith in Jesus Christ, or personally knowing his peace, joy and love that He gives true believers every day, or you will be labelled as some kind of 'nutter' and might be banned from ever speaking in the Anglican Church!

2 December 2007 at 14:22  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Simon Icke
You are making the mistake of equating liberal wishy washy church people to atheists. Dawkins would have kittens if he read your comment! Atheists and liberal Christians are not the same.

You say if a Born Again tries to defend their faith against Dawkins et al, the established church will attack the Born Agains? HUH? Forgive me, but that makes little sense.

And who are you to say the liberals don't REALLY believe? Who made you the judge on who is a true believer? How many boxes does one have to tick to be a true believer? I take it you have a 'relationship' with Jesus? And you have a grievance against the Anglicans for only paying lip service to the faith? Hmm, yes. Your gripe is with them, not with the atheists or the agnostics and your comment only serves to prove what I said originally. The problem does not lie with the securalists because they do not demand that everyone should sing from their hymn sheet...unlike others we may know...

2 December 2007 at 16:01  

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