Sunday, April 29, 2007

The anti-Semitic imperative

The Jerusalem Post is reporting on the need to combat anti-Semitism, and how the Vatican intends to make this a key issue for Roman Catholic bishops in October next year. A preparatory document has been released, which builds upon the 1965 declaration of the Second Vatican Council - Nostra Aetate. This was the first official Vatican document to challenge and repudiate the deicide charge brought against Jews for the death of Christ. The meeting intends to confront the ‘literal’ interpretation of some key scriptures, which may ‘ferment attitudes of anti-Semitism’.

The study is timely, coming, as it does, while anti-Semitic sentiment is growing throughout Europe, and hostility towards Israel is increasingly considered the enlightened norm. In France, attacks on Jews on so frequent, and the media blackout so pervasive, that society seems then to have sacrificed the Jews in order not to alienate Arabs and Mohammedans. As Professor Shmuel Trigano of the Paris-Nanterre University observes:

(T)here is a symbolic exchange or displacement occurring between the Jewish (dead) victim and the so-called victim of the Jews: the Palestinians, so that European compassion for the victim has been transferred to the "people in danger" as the Palestinians have been called. No longer victims, the Jews became the persecutors of the Palestinians (the so-called "original sin" of the state of Israel), and this permits the Europeans who identify with the victim not to face their own culpability towards the Jews.

It is perhaps no wonder that more than 7000 French Jews have signed a petition asking for political asylum in the United States because of anti-Semitic expression in France.

Yet while the Roman Catholic Church is issuing reports on this, and declaring that ‘everything must be done to dispel every shadow’, it might consider beginning with Pax Christi International (PCI) - a Roman Catholic organisation with headquarters in Brussels. Despite its claims to ‘promote reconciliation’ and the ‘defence of universal human rights’, PCI adopts the Palestinian narrative and reflects the one-sided sentiments expressed by its President, who gives unqualified support for the Palestinian ‘right of return’, and condemns Israel’s security barrier. For him, Palestinian terrorism is legitimate ‘resistance’, and the sole responsibility for making peace lies in Israel’s hands.

Pax Christi International has been criticised by the Council of Europe for ‘taking up the themes of Arab propaganda and placing those who terrorised on an equal footing with their victims’. In the UK, the organisation’s website has an Israel/Palestine section (the only country to be so treated) which demonises Israel and advocates international isolation. It omits completely the context of terrorism, and ignores Palestinian violence and corruption as sources of suffering. PCI professes to be a Christian organisation ‘inspired by the word of God and the Eucharist’, yet it is hard to imagine a more invidious anti-Semitic narrative than that conveyed by its websites and its President.

Cranmer hopes that the quest of His Holiness to ‘dispel every shadow’ of anti-Semitism might begin with the reform of Pax Christ International. Judgement must begin at home.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Canterbury hit by earthquake

And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. (Rev 8:5).

At 8.20am this morning, an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.7 on the Richter scale shook the spiritual centre of England. Houses in Kent swayed from left to right, walls cracked, chimneys fell, and people were thrown out of their beds. There are reports of widespread chaos.

The centre of the quake was near to Canterbury. Is the Lord somehow displeased with Archbishop Rowan Williams? The earthquake has echoes of the lightning that hit York Minster after a sermon given by the then Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins. Thou shalt be visited of the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. (Isaiah 29:6).

The Bible talks much of God using earthquake, storm, famine and pestilence to bring judgement, but does he still?

PS
Cranmer actually knows that Folkestone was damaged rather more than Canterbury, but the post is just a little more interesting if one talks about God's judgement upon the Church of England than upon the parliamentary constituency of the Rt Hon Michael Howard QC MP...

Friday, April 27, 2007

EU Constitution to be 'presented' differently

Look at this saintly face. Butter wouldn't melt. But do not trust mere appearances, for Satan himself appears as an angel of light. Cranmer has been forwarded a rather alarming briefing by Daniel Hannan MEP. The content is by no means surprising; indeed, Cranmer predicted this strategy some time ago. But as Mr Hannan observes, the brazenness of the strategy is breathtaking. He writes:

I am clutching in my hot, trembling hands the most extraordinary document I have come across in eight years of Euro-politics. It is a letter from the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to her fellow EU heads of government. In it, she proposes a scheme to bring back the constitution under a new name — or, as she artlessly puts it, “to use different terminology without changing the legal substance”.

Now this, in itself, is not surprising. Many of us have suspected all along that the Eurocrats would try to bring back the constitution surreptitiously: I have written as much in these pages. What is shocking is the brazenness. Mrs Merkel flagrantly admits that she wants to preserve intact the content of the European constitution, making only “the necessary presentational changes”.

These changes mainly involve dropping paragraphs which the voters don’t like, and which are in any case unnecessary because they restate what is in the existing treaties. Thus, Mrs Merkel suggests excising the reference to the primacy of EU law. Since this concept has been part of EU jurisprudence since 1964, she reasons, there is no point in rubbing people’s noses in the fact by spelling it out.

She also proposes scrapping the reference to the EU’s symbols. Again, not a single twelve-star flag will be hauled down as a consequence. The bands will still strike up Beethoven’s Ninth, bringing a lump to Euro-enthusiast throats (I’m afraid that that stirring tune now has the same effect on me as it has on Alex in A Clockwork Orange and for the same reason — bad connotations). The change will be, as Mrs Merkel puts it with such admirable frankness, presentational.

Similarly, she has a clever wheeze to “replace the full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights with a short cross-reference having the same legal value”. And so on.

The leaking of this letter is calamitous for the Euro-federalists. Their whole strategy depended on obfuscation, complexity and — consequent on these things — voter fatigue. The electorates of Europe might sense that their leaders are up to no good but, so far, they have not been able to hang their doubts on anything specific. Now, though, they have it in black and white: they are to get the same constitution as before, but without the promised referendums.

Think, for a moment, about how scandalous this is. After all, Labour’s commitment to a plebiscite did not come as an afterthought. It was central to that party's election strategy.

There was a time, back in 2004, when it looked as if Europe might again dominate British politics, greatly to the disbenefit of the governing party. People could see that Brussels was engaged in a huge power-grab. They could see, too, that other countries were offering their peoples referendums. In Britain, the Tories and the Lib-Dems were making similar demands.

Tony Blair feared, with good reason, that if he did not allow a referendum, voters would treat the 2004 European election and, worse, the 2005 general election as a surrogate referendum. Returning back from the Caribbean, tanned fit and lean, he suddenly announced that he would, after all, let the people decide.

We Tories were left opening and closing our mouths like Appalachian yokels. Blair’s announcement deprived us at the last minute of what was to have been our main argument. I remember, as a Euro-candidate in 2004, having to pulp whole forests of redundant campaign literature. We were left with almost nothing to say, and duly went down to the worst defeat the Conservative Party has ever suffered — worse even than the catastrophe of 1832.

Having promised a referendum in two manifestoes, and having won office on that basis, Labour will find it pretty awkward to explain why now wants to rat. The publication of the Merkel letter makes it impossible to pretend that the new text is substantively different from the old one.

No doubt ministers will try, essaying all sorts of sophist arguments to the effect that treaties are different from constitutions, and that the EU is already doing most of the things that the sceptics complain about. None of it will wash, though.

I hope I never have to give an interview like the one poor Geoff Hoon gave to The World At One on Friday. His own mother, had she been listening, would have thought him a terrible fibber. “What was different about the Constitutional Treaty,” stammered the hapless Europe minister, “was that it altered the basic relationship between the European Union and the member states, and therefore it was appropriate to have a referendum.” How painful to re-read those words in the context of the Merkel letter.

Let us be clear: the European Constitution amounts to a constitutional revolution, perhaps the most far-reaching since the civil and religious upheavals of the 17th century. This revolution is taking place, not as the result of popular insurrection or foreign occupation, but because the governing party is abusing its majority.

Labour may get its way, in the narrow sense of ramming the new treaty through without a referendum. But it will pay a heavy price in damage to its reputation, as will the Euro-integrationist cause more widely. “Vencerán, pero no convencerán,” said Miguel de Unamuno to the Nationalist leaders at the beginning of Spain’s Civil War: you’ll conquer, but you won’t convince.

Parliament is not the owner of our freedoms, but their temporary and contingent custodian. If Labour MPs want to give those freedoms away in perpetuity, they should have the decency to ask us first.

If they win, I promise to accept the result with as much good grace as I can muster. But if they go back on their manifesto promise, they won’t deserve to be forgiven.


Cranmer thanks God that this letter has been disclosed, and cannot now wait for Britain’s Conservative MEPs to leave the EPP and form a new group within the EU Parliament. This will give the EU, for the first time, an Official Opposition: an alliance of Centre-Right parties dedicated to opposing the foundational tenet of ‘ever-closer union’. In the meantime, Frau Merkel's letter wonderfully affirms those who always asserted that we were being lied to; that the European Union was a work of deception from its inception; that the strategy is to construct a political entity regardless, and, if necessary, contrary to the will of the people.

An empire built upon a foundation of lies and deception is not one which will tolerate a nation trying to pursue righteousness. The two cannot coexist; one must give way to the other...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

EU Corpus Juris – the nightmare begins

Cranmer has been sent a harrowing account, in advance of publication, of continental policing methods. Read this and consider that the fascist philosophy upon which this mode of ‘justice’ is constructed is soon to be EU-wide, manifest as Corpus Juris. British citizens will languish in jail for years without trial or protection, and completely out of reach of the British Government.

Chris Lees decided to leave the UK in search of a better way of life. Spain beckoned, and the Costa del Sol with its 340 days of sun and long rolling beaches fitted the bill perfectly. He sold his house and moved to Marbella in 1998. He continues:

Coming from Britain I found it strange that as a foreigner - even as a European – you had to register yourself with the police and obtain a tax number also from the police. Every necessary official piece of paper - and in Spain there are many – seemed to have something to do with the police.

One even stranger incident did make me wonder as to how much power the police had. One day I tried to obtain money from my Spanish bank account with my cash card only to have the card confiscated by the machine. I raced over to my bank to sort this matter out only to be told by the clerk that the police had frozen my account. What! Run that past me again! Yes the police had frozen my account over an unpaid speeding fine. Fortunately, the fine had nothing to do with me but with the owner of a car I'd sold some months ago. The new owner, a Spanish man, hadn't registered the vehicle in his name, again with the police, and so I was the innocent bystander caught up in this imbroglio. How could the police have the power to embargo my bank account over a fifty pounds speeding fine and, worst of all, not even inform me about it? No wonder I started to worry.

In July 2001, I received a phone call at 6.30 in the evening. It was the police. "Senor Lees, your company is the managing agent for a property located cast of Marbella and we have some bad news for you."

The phone call went on to say that the property in question had been under observation for a couple of weeks and that 2,500 kilos of cannabis resin had been found there in the garage. Two people of Moroccan origin had been arrested at the property and would I kindly call in at the police station tomorrow to help with enquiries?

Shocked at what I had just learned, I raced over to my Fuengirola office and found the paperwork. The following morning I drove over to the comisaria (police station) and as requested introduced myself and asked to speak to a member of Grupo UDYCCO – the Spanish equivalent of the Serious Crime Squad. Understandably, I was shocked and upset that this had happened and as a law abiding citizen who has never been in trouble with the police in his life, I was keen to help to clear this matter up.

I was shown into a small office. The door slammed shut behind me and I was met by three plain clothed and very aggressive police officers. One of them showed me a Polaroid snap of a wall of hessian sacks and proclaimed, in my face, that this haul of hashish was mine 'and I would go to prison for a long time. For good measure, he spat in my face and racially abused me.

No one would listen when I was languishing in Malaga prison. They nearly killed me with the drugs they forced into my body and I nearly killed myself whilst on hunger strike. Nobody came to my rescue. Nobody cared about my human rights. Nobody picked me up when I was mentally broken. It took fifty weeks of my fighting to be heard before my case went to trial. Very lucky I was too because they could have kept me there for two years on remand and then asked for an extension of another year.

I sat in the dock and there was no evidence against me whatsoever. The Moroccans testified that they'd never seen me before in their lives and couldn't understand who I was. The whole thing was a complete farce. Even the police were unsure why they had arrested me. I was a success in business and they didn't like it. That was the real reason for putting me behind bars and they took it all away from me, all except my spirit.

People ask me if I will receive compensation? The answer is no. The reason is quite simple; Corpus Juris. Suspicion, arrest, investigation and then charge. That's the way it is over there. There's no stigma to being in prison. Every family has, or has had, at least one male member of the family put away.

This is the Napoleonic inquisitorial system that exists in Europe today and the system that they are trying to impose upon us in Britain.

They say that what happened to me could not happen here. Well wake up and take a look around you. Our freedoms are under attack as never before.

No one else should have to endure the agony and pain of what I went through for no reason at all. Therefore it is incumbent on us all to stand up, fight and speak out, not only to protect ourselves, but also to protect others.


Cranmer has nothing to add, except, perhaps, to ask the question ‘why?’. Why is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland supplanting a tried-and-tested system of law and traditions of justice which have endured for 800 years? Why are we depriving ourselves of one of the greatest gifts we have given to the civilised world? Why are we abandoning our liberties and embracing the shackles of a foreign power?

And since this is manifestly not at the behest of the people, why are those who govern us seeking to abjure those very laws and customs which Her Majesty swore in her Coronation Oath to uphold?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Will no-one rid us of 'this godless government'?

A communicant has brought to Cranmer’s attention a small and almost insignificant article in The Times in which it was reported that a Labour peer, Lord Harrison, has urged all ‘non-religious people’ to make a stand against the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, who are, apparently Britain’s ‘newly aggressive religious lobby’.

His Grace is more than familiar with and openly admiring of the Archbishop of York. His particular brand of religious expression may not be to everyone’s taste, but his is an engaging witness which some might indeed find ‘aggressive’.

But the Archbishop of Canterbury? Aggressive? Lord Harrison explains:

The Anglicanism of my youth, more sedative than stimulant, now gives way to the harsher tones of those like the Archbishop of York who describes us as illiberal atheists, aggressive secularists. We learn that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Roman Catholic Church and the Jewish leader will meet this summer in a holy alliance to plot the counter strategy. It seems to me that the religions of today do not lack leaders, they lack leadership.

Hmmm…

Lord Harrison appears to yearn for an Anglicanism which is a ‘sedative’, and anything which transgresses this soporific state, indeed, which may be considered a ‘stimulant’, becomes offensive. God forbid that the Church of England might ever stimulate! Lord Harrison has possibly never read the Bible, and has a notion of Christianity which has scarcely advanced beyond ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’. Cranmer not only urges him to move from milk onto solid food, but questions why, given the prophetic insight into some clandestine meeting of monotheists, he has not berated the leaders of Britain’s Muslims and Jews for being ‘aggressive’ or ‘harsh’. Could it possibly be because such accusations carry the risk of accusations of ‘racism’, but attacking Christians and the State Church is simply par for the course?

However, the ‘plot’ to which The Times alludes is of great interest to His Grace, and he shall be consulting with his moles in order to discover more. He wonders if the Archbishop of Canterbury has discovered the purpose of spiritual muscle-flexing. If his recent article in The Times is anything to go by, it would appear that Dr Williams has just about had it with ‘this godless government’. His theme follows the recent speech made by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, noting that ‘if the state enacts or perpetuates in the corporate life of the nation what is directly contrary to the Christian understanding of God’s purpose, then Christian activism in respect of changing the law is justified, primarily when the state is responsible for — so to speak — compromising the morality of all its citizens’.

Countering the pervasive relativism, the Archbishop makes a case for ‘human values and ethical norms to which an entire society is answerable’. This is possible, he asserts, without the state becoming confessional or theocratic, because it demands that the United Kingdom ‘be ready recognise its own history; to say that its horizons and assumptions are indeed grounded in a set of particular beliefs, and to embody in its political practice ways of allowing those foundational commitments to be heard in public debate’.

In defending the establishment of the Church of England, as it has evolved in the past century or so, for being such a mechanism, the Archbishop of Canterbury deserves praise indeed for raising such complex constitutional religio-political concerns.

The interesting thing for Cranmer, however, is that when the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England & Wales, or its leader in Scotland, comments upon the amorality and godlessness of the Government, it is reported far and wide, and without fail by the BBC. But when the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the State Church, voices those same concerns, the BBC is completely silent.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and St George!’

From the quill of William Shakespeare comes the only line in literature which links England with St George. It could not be more appropriate that the Bard’s birthday falls on this day, for it becomes a cause of celebration of England’s (and the world’s) greatest writer. To paraphrase Hamlet: He was a man, take him for all in all; we shall not look upon his like again. That a humble son of a glover, with an education no higher than a grammar school, should tower above the university educated; should have such insight into morals, manners, economy, philosophy, religion, taste, and the conduct of life, is a cause for wonder. That an Englishman was blessed with great knowledge of the greatest mysteries, understood the politics of high office without having held any, and could articulate with profound accuracy the emotions and needs of the common man, is a cause for great celebration – yea, a national holiday.

It is pleasing indeed, on this day, to note that Greg Mulholland MP has proposed this Early Day Motion:

ENGLISH NATIONAL ANTHEM
20.04.2007

That this House believes that it is time that England, when competing as England rather than as Great Britain or the United Kingdom, should adopt an appropriate song to be the English national anthem, in the same way that Scotland and Wales do when they compete as individual nations; further believes that it is quite wrong that England use the British national anthem when competing as England rather than as Great Britain or the United Kingdom, particularly when playing the other home nations who also have God Save the Queen as their British national anthem; and therefore believes that all English sporting associations should adopt an appropriate song that English sportsmen and women, and the English public, would favour when competing as England.

It is strange indeed that ‘God Save the Queen’ becomes the anthem of opposition for the Scots, Welsh, or Northern Irish. It perpetuates the myth that the monarch belongs to England, and England thereby subjugates the rest of the kingdom. It is time for England to assert its identity. It is time for England to gain parity with the other three corners of the United Kingdom. It may eventually mean a national holiday, or an English Parliament, but it should begin with an imperative sporting necessity - an English anthem.

Yet Cranmer is at a loss to know what this should be…

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Labour’s ‘inhumane’ Mental Health Bill

There is nothing more repressive or repugnant, or indicative of a move towards totalitarianism, than the Government’s decision to lock away the innocent. Yet this is precisely what is proposed in Labour’s Mental Health Bill. Beneath the guise of ‘protecting the public’, the mentally ill could be incarcerated indefinitely without any crime being committed. The policy is straight out of Minority Report - a film which portrays a world in which crime is predicted, and the innocent are arrested before they get the chance to realise their criminality. But while super-computers may be deemed capable of the infallible dispensation of justice, the Government has no such attribute of divinty.

There is no presumption of innocence in this Bill, and it effectively creates a psychiatric asbo; it will deprive ‘offenders’ of their liberty because the greater good lies in the protection of society. It is not that they have done anything wrong; merely that they are more likely to. The Labour peer Lord Bragg observes: ‘It would be cowardly of the Government to allow its policy to be driven by tabloid hysteria about the very, very rare, though of course deeply regrettable, incidences of murder and assault committed by people with severe mental health problems. The way to cure that is to improve probation and not resort to lock-them-up legislation, which is inhumane, inefficient and, above, all unfair.’

In his essay On the Character of a Modern European State, Michael Oakeshott observed the two modes of association known to Roman law – societas and universitas. Intrinsic to the former are democratic institutions and participation, while the latter lays an emphasis on centralised government and teleological leadership - at whose extreme lies totalitarianism. In the absence of a codified constitution, the United Kingdom has developed over the centuries the notion of ‘reasonableness’ in coordinating the workings of the state, and societas has prevailed. But we are no longer dealing with a reasonable government. We are dealing with one that is failing to respect traditional constitutional values of justice and balance. This government believes less in participative democracy than in governing as an exercise in domination. With each increasingly authoritarian proposal, they remove a constitutional safeguard or gather more power to the executive. Societas is supplanted with universitas, and our liberties are diminished incrementally.

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of the Mental Health Bill is that the ‘lock-them-up-legislation’ extends to children. The charity Young Minds says that 1000 children a year are admitted to adult mental health wards, ‘putting them at risk of physical and sexual abuse’. Unlike the prison system, there is no mental-health equivalent of a young offenders’ institution, and so there is no acknowledgement that their treatment may need to be quite different from that meted out to adults.

The Government needs to think again on this one, not least because of the ‘mental health time-bomb’ which is latent in our everyday lives. Apparently, the risk to our brains from the preponderance of wireless networks is every bit as dangerous as the radiation emitted from mobile phones. It is not only airports, coffee shops, or schools which have radio networks, but whole cities are adopting the technology, subjecting unwitting populations to an ‘electronic smog’ which increases the likelihood of brain tumours. A recent authoritative Swedish study has also found that the radiation kills off brain cells, ‘which could lead to today's younger generation going senile in their forties and fifties’.

Senile at forty? What will the Government do? Lock them all up? Won’t prison overcrowding soon be followed by asylum overcrowding?

Better, perhaps, to put them in Parliament, where their mental deficiencies are unlikely to be distinguishable from those of the present inmates.

Friday, April 20, 2007

‘EU law will end free speech’

According to The Daily Telegraph, which refers to the wide concerns of bloggers, free speech on the internet is under threat from draconian new laws which could see them (hmm… perhaps Cranmer should say ‘us’) jailed for up to three years.

Well, three years imprisonment is indeed to be relished when compared to being burnt at the stake, but Cranmer is somewhat concerned that the EU is legislating in this area at all. The Council Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia is portentous indeed, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the effective functioning of the single market. It is proof positive that the EU is acquiring criminal jurisdiction – a legal personality - which supplants the role of the Home Office and may override the authority of the Home Secretary. But since this centuries-old Office of State is soon to be abolished split anyway, perhaps the EU is simply seizing the opportunity.

Europe's justice ministers have agreed genocide denial and race hatred legislation that will outlaw remarks which are ‘carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred’. This includes publicly inciting to violence or hatred, even by dissemination or distribution of religious tracts, pictures or other material, directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.

The document declares:

Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that racist and xenophobic motivation is considered an aggravating factor, or, alternatively that such motivation may be taken into consideration by the courts in the determination of the penalties.

Since ‘xenophobia’ is defined as the fear of things foreign, there is nothing that distinguishes irrational fear from the perfectly rational. To criminalise a fear which may be rationally explained (or even one that is irrationally held) is a move towards the creation of thought crime, and this demands the formation of a pan-EU thought-police to patrol our consciences and opinions, to ensure that both conform to the prevailing religio-political zeitgeist.

The Government and Mr Blair tried a number of times to introduce a law against incitement to religious hatred, and they failed in their quest. The very concept which was explicitly rejected by Parliament is now being incorporated into UK law through EU mechanisms. Defining terms like ‘xenophobia’, ‘religion’ or ‘hatred’ is fraught with difficulty, and the effect will be to censor essential debate, and criminalise those who raise such concerns. While Cranmer has no time for those who deny the Holocaust, the notion that one should be imprisoned for the idea is a step towards denial of the freedom of belief, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech.

It is no wonder that the Prime Minister has now decided to deny the British People a referendum on the EU Constitution EU Tidying-up Treaty, which, of course, will now contain nothing of constitutional significance whatsoever…

Thursday, April 19, 2007

British Government recognises polygamy

Cranmer saw this on ConservativeHome a few days ago, pointing to an article in The Daily Telegraph which observed that the Conservative MP, David Davies, had discovered that the Department for Work and Pensions recognises polygamous marriages that are conducted overseas: ‘In a guide to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, the department states that claimants in polygamous unions are entitled to "additional allowances for each additional partner".’ This is, of course, an exception solely for Muslims; the rest of us have to abide by the law.

Mr Davies is quoted as saying: ‘Polygamy is both demeaning to women and alien to this country's culture… Foreigners who come to Britain should be prepared to fit in with British cultural attitudes - and they do not include acceptance of polygamy.’

The Difference Magazine also covered this, but erroneously asserted that polygamy was contrary to Britain’s ‘Judeo-Christian heritage’. It is, of course, nothing of the sort. Whilst it is true that Christians were urged to be monogamous, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah record numerous examples of polygamy. The practice was not only rife; it was deemed to be the patriarchal norm. The United States, also a child of the ‘Judeo-Christian heritage’, tolerates the polygamy of Mormons, albeit by recognising one wife in law, and subsequent wives only nominally. There is, however, acceptance of their religious right to live in adherence to Old Testament practices.

The interesting thing in the Old Testament is the way in which polygamy and bigamy are presented. Neither are deemed to be ideal (Lev 18:18; Deut 17:17), and both are portrayed negatively (Gen 16:4ff; 21:10) or deemed problematic (Deut 21:15-17). The practice became increasingly uncommon throughout Jewish history, perhaps because they came to agree with Solomon. If the proverbial nagging wife is like the drip, drip, drip of a tap; numerous wives must be an irritating shower indeed.

An interesting corollary of this is how HM Government views polygamous ‘gay marriages’ conducted overseas. Having legislated so much to normalise gay partnerships, it would be difficult now to discriminate against those conducted abroad. EU human rights laws and equality regulations could indeed open the door for homosexuals to demand similar recognition for multiple partnerships, with groups of men or women presenting themselves as polygamous families.

This is, however, merely theory. In practice, in those countries where polygamy is legal, like Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is illegal. The UK is not about to be flooded with gay polygamy; it is, however, a cause of great concern that the British taxpayer is subsidising a distinctly Islamic practice which is contrary to UK law. Still, that’s dhimmocracy for you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The pro-Islam bias of the BBC


Cranmer wonders what the BBC is playing at with this sort of headline. Is there some pro-Islamic agenda? Is there some covert educational plan to indoctrinate viewers? The BBC has already admitted that it accords the Qur'an more respect than the Bible, and that it is biased against the state religion. This sort of reporting simply confirms the admission.

It is quite wrong to demonise an entire faith group because of the actions of a minority of its adherents, but neither can it be right to convey without critical analysis the impression that Mohammedans are ‘more loyal’ to the United Kingdom than the rest of the population. More loyal to which aspect? Its traditions? Culture? Freedom of speech? Its enlightenment libertarianism? Its morality?

According to a Gallop survey, sections of which have been reported to the BBC, ‘Muslims in the UK are more likely to identify strongly with Britain and have confidence in its institutions than the population as a whole’, they are ‘more likely to take a positive view of living side-by-side with people of different races and religions’, and the majority ‘do not believe the veil is a barrier to integration - unlike most of the wider population’.

How can this BBC headline have any credibility at all when the article goes on to include questions relating to the Islamic understanding of Islamic cultural practices? It stands to reason that more Muslims will not believe the niqab to be a barrier to integration, just as Sikhs would believe the turban to be consistent with their sense of British identity, or Christians might deem the wearing of a cross to be a necessary expression of their faith. That these things do not seem so to the outsider is hardly newsworthy.

And why is the BBC not reporting on the more contentious issues of the integration of Mohammedans with contemporary British culture? The Times has a much more impartial reporting of this survey, including facts such as only 5% of Mohammedans find homosexuality ‘acceptable’ (compared to 65% generally), and that more Mohammedans accept ‘honour killings’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 69% of ‘identify very or extremely strongly with their religion’, and 82% ‘respect other religions’. What is the meaning of this ‘respect’? Were any of them asked what should happen to Muslims who convert to Christianity? Were any of them asked about Shari’a principles of law being introduced into UK law? Public beatings, stoning, hanging? Were any asked about the role and status of women compared to men, or what they thought of the faith that inspired September 11th, July 7th, the planned bombings to bring down trans-Altantic jets, or those who demanded the beheading of Muslim British servicemen for fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq?

The BBC ought at least to take this Gallop poll and present it impartially, and then compare like with like. Or is it that they dare not compare Islam to other faith groups, because to do so might yield a thoroughly unpalatable set of statistics?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Roman Catholic Church intervenes in Scottish election

The Roman Catholic bishops of Scotland have had enough of Labour, and have made a dramatic intervention in the Holyrood election campaign. They have written a letter to be read out to 500 parishes during Mass, which urges Roman Catholics to support politicians ‘with Christian values’.

The bishops point to the Government’s legislation over civil partnership, gay adoption, attacks on Catholic education, divorce, abortion, and embryo research. Such legislation and regulations are ‘seriously at odds with the insights and values of our Christian faith and of other faiths’. In asserting the principles of ‘freedom of religion’ and the ‘rights of conscience’, the bishops contend that these developments are ‘detrimental not just to the good of the Catholic community but to the common good of humanity as a whole’.

So the Roman Catholic faithful are exhorted by their bishops to vote for candidates who manifest Christian values.

Nothing wrong at all with that. In fact, it is totally predictable and remarkably unremarkable…

…except for the prominence given to the story by the BBC, and by the corporation’s total silence on the matter when such concerns are voiced by other church groups. Indeed, one minister, the Rev George Hargreaves, has founded the Scottish Christian Party to argue for precisely this agenda, but has only hit the media because his campaign is deemed ‘homophobic’, outdated’, ‘extreme’ or ‘fundamentalist’. He is even a candidate himself, but there are so many derogatory adjectives attached to his campaign for Christian values that it beggars belief that he could be standing on the same platform at all. In fact, the only difference is that he happens to be a Protestant Evangelical.

Needless to say, Cranmer supports the Roman Catholic bishops on this one, but he is somewhat puzzled that they have not been dismissed as homophobic, unenlightened, anti-science, or intolerant. The only insult not deployed upon the Rev Hargreaves is that he is ‘racist’, but doubtless this would not stick given that he is black. If one were looking for equality and impartiality in the way these agendas are conveyed, the Roman Catholic bishops should be bigoted, medieval flat-earthers.

It is manifestly not what is being said that attracts the reverence of the BBC, but who is doing the saying.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

French Muslims vote for la dhimmocracie

As France nears the climax of its presidential election campaign, Cranmer is fervently praying for Nicolas Sarkozy. Of course he spouts patriotically like any énarque about the wonders of the French economy, dreams delusions of a more French European Union, and fantasises like a latter-day Napoleon about the exalted place of France on the world stage (all of which Cranmer takes with a pinch of salt). But his greatest strength has been demonstrated by one issue upon which he has hitherto been resolute – the challenge posed by France’s five million Mohammedans.

France's largest conservative Muslim group, the Union of Muslim Organisations in France (UOIF), has been holding its annual conference in Paris. It has urged all Mohammedans to vote, and to make all candidates aware of ‘the fears and worries of the Muslim community’. Its president, Thami Breze, has urged the Islamic faithful to set aside all wider political considerations, and to make a choice ‘based on the position of the candidate regarding Islam’, because ‘Muslims will not vote for a candidate who does not respect their religion or who criticises their customs and their feelings, either in words or in behaviour’.

This stipulation is pregnant with meaning, and loaded with implications…for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. The inference is that neither Islam nor the cultural traditions it has spawned may be questioned, Mohammed must be respected, and that offence may be caused and guilt established merely by an appeal to ‘feelings’. Msr Breze insists that France must commit itself to ‘welcoming its Muslim children’.

Indeed, indeed. Such hospitality is exhorted in Scripture, and it is incumbent upon civilised nations the world over. But what when those ‘Muslim children’, twenty years later, seek to make a nation unwelcoming of non-Muslims, repudiating other faiths, unaccepting of its own history, traditions and laws, and intolerant of criticism or scrutiny?

Nicolas Sarkozy fully understands the threat this poses to France’s fifth republic. He has already been judged to have offended Islam by his support of a satirical magazine which published cartoons of Mohammed.

He said: ‘I am not in favour of any kind of censorship, whether of men, ideas or religions’.

That sentence alone could make the once-great France great once again.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Vatican boycotts Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day

The Jerusalem Post is reporting a most interesting development in the Vatican’s relations with the Holy Land. It appears that the Vatican’s ambassador to Israel, Monsignor Antonio Franco, has refused to attend the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem because of a caption at the Holocaust Museum that referred to the role of Pope Pius XII during World War Two as ‘controversial’.

That is the single word to cause the Vatican offence. It does not say that Pope Pius was ‘responsible’; it does not say he ‘turned a blind eye’; it does not say his non-intervention was ‘cowardly’: simply that his decision to maintain silence while millions were being incinerated, which is a matter of historical fact, was ‘controversial’. This seems to Cranmer to be the least offensive way of putting it, but the ambassador responded: ‘I will attend any ceremony on the victims of World War Two, but I do not feel at ease at Yad Vashem when the Pope is presented in this way.’

The Yad Vashem presentation says of Pius XII: ‘In 1933, when he was Secretary of the Vatican State, he was active in obtaining a Concordat with the German regime to preserve the Church's rights in Germany, even if this meant recognizing the Nazi racist regime.’ Again, this is historical fact, but the Vatican has been making a concerted effort to have this changed, effectively using diplomatic pressures to have history re-written.

Until it is changed, the ambassador does not ‘feel comfortable’ attending the Holocaust Memorial Day, but insists that his decision to boycott this official state ceremony is a ‘personal’ one. This is nonsense. In no sense can such a high-profile boycott by a serving ambassador be ‘personal’. He is his office; he represents the government of the Vatican; he is the vice-pope of the Holy Land. Cranmer is certain that the endorsement of such a contentious decision would have gone straight to the top. So the German Pope, who was once a member of the Hitler Youth because he could not avoid the compulsion of the regime, is defending the conduct and reputation of Hitler’s Pope, who most certainly was under no compulsion to sign his concordat with the Third Reich.

And yes, Cranmer is perfectly aware that refusal to do so would almost certainly have brought persecution upon the Roman Catholic Church, but that is precisely what Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has said just this week that the Church needs. Such levity is a little irritating to Cranmer, knowing truly what persecution is like. The Cardinal ought to try living in China, Burma, Iran or Iraq, instead of just pontificating from the comfort of his armchair about how a little persecution works wonders.

If Pope Pius XII collaborated with the Nazis, the truth should be told. If he made a sound judgement, let us hear the evidence. If history is to judge him fairly, the Vatican archives should be opened up. Obfuscation and secrecy simply breed confusion and conspiracy.

But then, maybe the Vatican has something quite unpalatable to hide…

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sexual abstinence 'increases risk of pregnancy'

This is the bizarre conclusion of a report by Ofsted, the Government’s enforcer of educational standards, which, with this example of manifest amoral illogic, ought itself to be subject to the rigours of a higher scrutiny.

According to the enlightened Ofsted inspectorate, schools that ‘preach’ abstinence (and note the derogatory sense in which this verb is deployed) are ‘putting pupils at greater risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases’. They further assert that abstinence-only programmes do not improve sexual health, and express concern with the sex education programmes of faith schools and privately-funded academies.

Unsurprisingly, they laud the success of present teaching about sex education, and praises nurses who hand out ‘emergency hormonal contraception’ (the morning-after pill), and other contraceptives, for the part they play in combating unwanted pregnancies among teenagers.

But the facts are these:

The UK has the highest teenage birth rates in Western Europe - twice as high as in Germany, three times as high as in France and six times as high as in the Netherlands. Schools and parents are manifestly failing in this area, and the system is in need of urgent reform.

Various ‘cures’ have been proposed, including lessons encouraging schoolchildren to experiment with oral sex because ‘pupils under 16 who were taught to consider other forms of “intimacy” such as oral sex were significantly less likely to engage in full intercourse’. Or how about the introduction of gay fairy tales for infants? If you ‘normalise’ homosexuality, even Ofsted might understand that such partnerships somewhat diminish the possibility of pregnancy. And then there’s the encouragement of ‘role play’ and masturbation, which some church schools (erroneously) term Onanism. These are all ‘sex education’ strategies being deployed in the nation’s schools, and the victims are the hearts and minds of our most vulnerable.

The Government is even considering national tests and making discussion of sex ‘compulsory for children of 11 and over’. This is abhorrent socialist educational dogma. Cranmer wonders how such knowledge will be assessed. Will students be penalised (or ridiculed) for being a virgin? Will the tests equate homosexuality with heterosexuality? Will there be coursework, or a practical?

Cranmer simply wants to know why sex education has been divorced from talk of marriage and love. He wants to know what is wrong with promoting sexual abstinence and traditional family values. And he wants to know why the spiritual side of the sexual act, so eloquently communicated in Scripture, and pervasive throughout the New Testament, is not talked of at all.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cranmer’s Pulpit II


A month ago, in commemoration of the spiritual liberation afforded by his own pulpit experience with the Provost of Eton, Dr Henry Cole (illustrated above), His Grace instituted ‘Cranmer’s Pulpit’.

A few communicants have requested this ‘open thread’ facility once again, so it is over to you to raise whatever religio-political or politico-religious concerns you do so wish, or to comment on related matters…

…intelligently, and eruditely, of course.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The injustice of Guantánamo Bay

As news reaches Cranmer that the inmates / prisoners / detainees of Camp X-Ray are embarking on a mass hunger strike, he feels a sense of moral outrage at the way these people are being treated.

If The Guardian is to be believed, some are being transferred from Camp X-Ray to Camp Six, ‘where inmates are locked in windowless cells with steel walls for 23 hours a day’. They sound like animals awaiting vivisection. They are force-fed when necessary, some have committed suicide, and ‘their sole contact with the outside world comes from yelling through the food slots of their cell doors’. The isolation endured by the Guantánamo prisoners is deemed to be ‘maddening’, with some now undergoing treatment in the mental health unit of the camp after suffering breakdowns.

These men have now been held for five years. No nation has persuaded the United States of the moral repugnance of Guantánamo, not even the United Kingdom, when the US Government arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned even British nationals as part of the ‘war on terror’. The possession of a British passport used to mean something. It demands ‘in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary’. The pleas of Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State fell on deaf ears.

The Constitution of the United States is conveniently codified, and emanates from the 18th-century English mind. It resonates with the rights of ordinary people to be protected from the acts of an overbearing, tyrannical government. The ‘land of the free’ is fully cognisant of clause 39 of Magna Carta, which states:

No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

In Guantánamo there is no trial by one’s peers, no Habeas Corpus, no presumption of innocence, and therefore no hope. If freedom is ‘the gift of God Almighty to each and every person in the world’, this barbarous inquisition must be terminated.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The moral necessity of Christianity

Bruce Anderson has an excellent article in The Independent on the moral imperative of the Christian faith, and the ethical consequences of its demise in the public life of the nation. Of particular note is his contrast of the believer’s intellectual and spiritual struggle with the ‘unholy simplicity’ of the atheist. Thus the arrogant Professor Richard Dawkins, who ‘gives the impression that the possibility of self-doubt has never crossed his mind’, has to accept just one proposition – the non-existence of God. But the believer has to try to understand the great complexities of what he or she believes. Anderson notes: ‘After two Christian millennia and many libraries of theology, that task seems harder than ever. St Paul told his fellow Christians that in this world, they would only see through a glass, darkly. That is becoming increasingly true.’

The article is worth quoting at length:

In the West, we have a vast cultural and intellectual heritage. But our ethical heritage is sadly depleted. Its two wells were the Classics and Christianity. The Classical well has already ceased to function. The Christian one may run dry even before the oil wells. Prime Minister Salisbury said that anyone who expected the Christian ethic to survive Christian theology by more than two or three generations was deluded. He has yet to be refuted.

There are those who would try to brush his point aside by denying that the Christian ethic has any value, and the past 2,000 years provides them with plenty of prima facie evidence. So did Christianity make man better, worse, or just the same? It is an irresolvable dispute, but the Christians can adduce some arguments in their favour. Theirs is a religion of love in which charity is a duty. If that cannot persuade man to behave well, original sin is the best short account of the human condition.

As a result, religion is one of the most powerful impulses in the human psyche, and shares a characteristic with two of the others, sex and money. They can all be profoundly creative or profoundly destructive. Religion has inspired painting, architecture and music. It has also inspired persecution, atrocities and massacres. It is surely preferable that this elemental force should be embanked, as great rivers are so that they can flow to the sea without inundating the land. For all their faults, the modern established churches are the safest means of ensuring this.

The second practical argument for Christianity relates to Islam, a religion which is not in decline. Westerners have a problem in dealing with Muslims; too many of us are infested with vulgar Marxism. So when believers who are angry with us talk about their faith, we assume that this is a mere metaphor for political and economic grievances. We are too ready to discount the possibility that our opponents are saying what they believe and that their grievances are largely religious in origin.

This is not to deny that religion and politics may combine to cause an explosion, especially in Islamic countries which do not recognise the distinction between the two. In Scotland, the SNP has convinced many voters that William Wallace was a poll-tax rebel, cruelly murdered by Margaret Thatcher. The SNP has used a "Braveheart" version of early 14th-century Scottish history to inflame unjustified grievances. It is hardly surprising that in countries where the grievances are genuine, a truthful version of 7th-century Islamic history can inflame the passions.

It was one of the most remarkable occurrences in history. Primitive tribesmen surged forth from the Arabian peninsula. Within 100 years, they had defeated the Byzantine and Persian empires. Only Charles Martel prevented them from overrunning Western Europe. This is not to suggest that we return to Charles Martel's methods. The era of the Crusades is over. But in our dealings with Islam, it would help us if we had more confidence in our own values and traditions.

And Cranmer applauds Mr Anderson’s conclusion:

In order for that to occur, as many people as possible ought to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This requires a missionary zeal, and the total rejection of the politically-correct mantra that ‘all religions are basically the same’. That requires the re-assertion of the freedom of speech, and thus the freedom to offend without being arrested for committing some phobia or other.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

He is not here. He is risen!

But chiefly are we bound to praise thee for the glorious resurrection of thy son Jesus Christ, our Lord, for he is the very Paschal Lamb, which was offered for us, and hath taken away the sin of the world, who by his death hath destroyed death, and by his rising to life again, hath restored to us everlasting life.

By stressing the centrality of the resurrection, the Apostle Paul made eschatology the key to the understanding of his religious worldview. The resurrection not only authenticated Jesus’ messiahship; it demonstrated how the eschatological age had irrupted into the present. The implications of this are given detailed consideration in 1 Corinthians 15, with v12 providing the foundational insight into the Corinthian over-realised eschatological belief that there was no future resurrection because they had been baptised and were living the resurrection life already. Since the spirit represents the in-breaking of the end time in the present, there arose in Corinth a preoccupation with spiritual gifts. Paul counters this with both sarcasm, and by emphasising the ‘age to come’ dimension.

Despite the assurance of a present dimension of eschatological hope, it should not be overlooked that for Paul the final revelation of the eschatological age still lies in the future. The ultimate transformation of the world order, the final redemption of the believer (the granting of the resurrection body) and the final judgement are all events which are yet to be awaited. The present is conditioned by both the past (death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) and the future (the awaited parousia at the end of time).

Paul associates the parousia with a final judgement. He clearly states that the resurrection of Jesus constitutes the ‘first fruits’, implying that the resurrection of the believer is, as the full harvest, a future event. Paul also uses this image of the Holy Spirit, and in the risen Christ being the ‘firstborn from among the dead’. The resurrection defeated death, but there is a tension in Paul’s view of when this enemy was/is to be destroyed: was it accomplished on the cross, or is it something which is still to occur in the future, at the awaited parousia? If death and sin are interconnected (as Paul forcefully asserts in Rom 5:12), how is it that the Christian is exhorted to live a life in the present which is freed from the power and effect of sin, and yet be expected to await the deliverance from death as something future?

The power of sin has been conquered (Rom 5:14, 17, 21; 7:8-11, 13-25), but the consequence - physical death - remains, awaiting a future consummation. The Spirit is a ‘guarantee’ (2Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14), which is a financial term denoting the promise to pay a full balance based upon the initial handing over of a down payment. Thus the ultimate redemption is still to come. In the present the Spirit is simultaneously a portion of the life and power of the future age, and a sign pointing beyond the present, telling believers that the fulfilment of the messianic age has not yet arrived.

The resurrection of Jesus split history in two; it divided BC from AD. Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Nanak, et al., are dead and in their tombs. Jesus is alive! Hallelujah!

Friday, April 06, 2007

The offence of the cross

It is the orthodox belief of Christians all over the world that because man has sinned, God sent Christ to suffer and die in our place. Yet The Very Revd Jeffery John, Dean of St Albans, said in Radio 4’s Lent Talks, that this teaching is ‘repulsive’, ‘insane’, and makes God ‘sound like a psychopath’ or a ‘monster’. He talks of a God of ‘love and truth’, rather than one of ‘wrath and punishment’. In response to this trend in belief, Cranmer wishes to share with you part of his Good Friday sermon on the meaning of the cross.

The various versions of satisfaction atonement function with the assumption that doing justice depends on retribution. Punishment is the expression of the divine law and order, of the inviolability of the divine order of the world. This is reflected in Anselm’s substitutionary theory, which derives from the medieval feudal system. It not difficult to see that Anselm reflects this world view, but it would be wrong to summarily dismiss the doctrine because of this: God does not demand satisfaction for sin because he is in some way personally affronted or offended by transgression. What is at stake is the order and beauty of the universe, for which God is responsible. Anselm’s understanding of satisfaction atonement differs significantly from penal substitutionary atonement. Whereas penal substitution pictures retribution in terms of punishment exacted by divine law, for Anselm it was the offended honour of God that required retribution. This is an important distinction, because the image of penal substitution is not true satisfaction atonement as articulated by Anselm. Indeed, some scholars blame reformers like Calvin for the unhealthy images which focus on the ‘wrath’, ‘hostility’ or ‘dread’ of God. The logic of satisfaction atonement makes God the chief avenger, but, for Anselm, God is not one who has to inflict punishment, but rather is concerned with the defence of honour.

An atonement motif in which the Father has one of his children killed in order to show love to the rest has led ministers and scholars to claim that it presents an image of ‘divine child abuse’. And, quite reasonably, if God is omnipotent and all-loving, why could he not simply forgive humanity without demanding this sacrifice? But such criticisms only echo the flaws which Abelard found in substitutionary logic. He wrote:

If the sin of Adam was so great that it could be expiated only by the death of Christ, what expiation will avail for the act of murder committed against Christ, and for the many great crimes committed against him or his followers? How did the death of his innocent Son so please God the Father that through it he should be reconciled to us?

Since man cannot save himself, Anselm’s deletion of Satan from the equation logically leads to the conclusion that God is the only one left to orchestrate the death of Jesus. Calvin emphasised the substitionary office of Christ by explaining why God’s ‘wrath’ was necessary:

…unless our minds are first struck and overwhelmed by fear of God’s wrath and by dread of eternal death, we are taught by Scripture to perceive that apart from Christ, God is, so to speak, hostile to us, and his hand is armed for our destruction; to embrace his benevolence and fatherly love in Christ alone.

Notwithstanding these concerns, this model not only has a scriptural foundation, but it clearly articulates how Christ’s death two thousand years ago is relevant in the present age - the Word became flesh (Jn 1:14) in order that humanity be saved. In his substitutionary role (Gal 3:10, 13), Christ reveals that God is for us by taking on the burdens that we cannot handle. He does this to free us to engage in other more important and more happy and more fruitful activities than being caught up in our own guiltiness. God becomes flesh because God’s very being demands it in order to be in relationship with us, not because he is somehow obliged. Since law is the expression of the will of the Lawgiver, of the personal God, then, if it is broken, it cannot and does not heal itself. Sin has caused a break in the world order, a disorder so deep-seated that atonement is necessary. As Athanasius observed:

Repentance does not satisfy the demands of truth and justice. If the question pertained solely to the corruption of sin, and not to the guilt and ill-desert of it, repentance might be sufficient. But since God is both truthful and just, who can save, in this emergency, but the Logos who is above all created beings. He who created men from nothing could suffer for all and be their substitute. Hence the Logos appeared… He saw how inadmissible it would be for sin to escape the law, except through a fulfillment and satisfaction of the law.

‘Substitution’ or ‘satisfaction’ are appropriate words when it is accepted that it is God’s inner being that is being satisfied; not something external to himself. Talk of law, honour, justice and the moral order is true only in so far as these are seen as expressions of God’s own character’ (cf 2Tim 2:13; Tit 1:2; Heb 6:18; Ps 89:33; Dt 32:4). When he is ‘provoked’ (eg Dt 32:16 cf Jdg 2:12), it is not a limitation of his patience, but the inevitable reaction of God’s perfect nature to evil. Yet he does not treat us as we deserve (Ps 103:10; Rom 2:4-16; 3:25). God has a kind of ‘dual nature’ – not that He is inconsistent, but that He is simultaneously both holy and love. The modern objection to the forensic language in relation to the cross is mainly due to the fact that the idea of the Divine Holiness has been swallowed up in that of the Divine Love; this means that the biblical idea of God, in which the decisive element is this twofold nature of holiness and love, is being replaced by the modern, unilateral, monistic idea of God.

And the mystery of the cross is impoverished by it; and the doctrine of the Church is rendered increasingly incomprehensible if its own ministers cease to understand it, or to preach it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Eucharistic mystery

Cranmer begs the indulgence of his Communicants over the next few days; it is a rather busy period. On this Maundy Thursday, let us recall the meaning and purpose of the Eucharist.

For Calvin, the institution of the Supper was Christ’s ‘seal’ of his sermon in John 6, and he termed it a ‘mystical union’. Calvin believed that there is a real ‘spiritual’ reception of the body and blood of Christ in the supper. The sacrament is a real means of grace - a channel by which Christ communicates himself. Luther and Calvin agreed that communion with a present Christ who actually feeds believers with his body and blood is what makes the sacrament. The question between them was the manner in which Christ’s body exists and is given to believers. Calvin held that, while Christ is bodily in heaven, distance is overcome by the Holy Spirit, who vivifies believers with Christ’s flesh. Thus the Supper is a true communion with Christ, who feeds believers with his body and blood. Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper appears to be a median position between the views of Luther and Zwingli, but it is in fact an independent position. Rejecting both Zwingli’s ‘memorialism’ and Luther’s ‘monstrous notion of ubiquity’, he held that there is a real reception of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper, but in a spiritual manner. With Zwingli, Calvin held that after the ascension Christ retained a real body which is located in heaven:

Nothing should be taken from Christ’s ‘heavenly glory’, as happens when he is brought under the corruptible elements of this world, or bound to any earthly creatures… Nothing inappropriate to human nature (should) be ascribed to his body, as happens when it is said either to be infinite or to be put in a number of places at once.

Calvin rejected the doctrine of the absorption of Christ’s humanity by his divinity, and any weakening of the idea of a local presence of the flesh of Christ in heaven. The Supper is a true communion with Christ, who feeds believers with his body and blood.

…in the sacred Supper, we acknowledge a miracle which surpasses both the limits of nature and the measure of our sense… But we must have done with all inventions inconsistent with the explanation lately given, such as the ubiquity of the body, the secret inclosing under the symbol of bread, and the substantial presence on earth.

Calvin held that the essence of Christ’s body was its power. In itself it is of little value since it ‘had its origin from earth, and underwent death’, but the Holy Spirit, who gave Christ a body, communicates his power to believers so that they receive the whole Christ in communion. The difference from Luther here is not great, for he held that the ‘right hand of God’ to which Christ ascended meant God’s power, and that power is everywhere. The real difference lay in the present existence of Christ’s body. Both agreed that there is deep mystery here which can be accepted though not understood:

If anyone should ask me how this (partaking of the whole Christ) takes place, I shall not be ashamed to confess that it is a secret too lofty for either my mind to comprehend or my words to declare… I rather experience than understand it.

Blessings upon all Communicants.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pope invited to address EU Parliament

It is, at this stage, merely an invitation, but Cranmer would bet his right arm (if he still had it) that His Holiness will feel inclined to accept.

The invitation was extended by Hans-Gert Poettering, former chairman of the EPP and now President of the European Parliament, during a private audience with the Pope at the Vatican. In this 50th anniversary year, the subject is to be the Pope’s favourite – that of the dialogue between religions and cultures, including the role religions can play in dialogue based on truth and tolerance. It will doubtless include a reiteration of the demand to mention God and the Continent’s Christian roots in the EU Constitution - an objective still pursued by Chancellor Merkel. His Holiness has recently reiterated his view that without this acknowledgement of the divine, the EU will be ‘godless’, and sleepwalking into the twilight.

This will be the second time a pope has addressed the European Parliament; the first came in 1988, when John Paul II addressed all MEPs in Strasbourg. The occasion was interrupted by the Rev Dr Ian Paisley, who denounced the Pope as the Antichrist. In a bizarre replay of ages past, he was ushered out of the chamber by Otto von Habsburg, the self-appointed defender of papal authority.

Cranmer has just one observation at this point: The Pope is German, Chancellor Merkel is German, and Mr Poettering is German. Is it not all getting a little ‘clubby’?

Monday, April 02, 2007

UN passes resolution protecting Islam, despite atrocities

The United Nations Human Rights Council is evidently more concerned with the protection of Islam against defamation than it is with the very real human tragedies occurring in Burma, North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran or Uzbekistan. Despite the ‘gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law’ occurring in these regions, the Council failed to condemn the governments of these nations, preferring instead to express its ‘deep concern’.

In its nine months of existence, the Council has condemned only one country in the entire world for human rights violations: Israel. At this session, the Council passed yet another resolution (the 9th) against the Jewish state.

This interesting fact is illuminated by the Council’s decision to adopt a resolution against ‘defamation of religions’, intrinsic to which is the suppression of perceived offences against Islam. This not only means the UN has issued a resolution effectively banning the term ‘Islamic terrorism’; it has silenced criticism of violence committed in its name. Even more revealing is that the resolution refers to Islam alone among the world's religions.

So how are we to refer to Muslim Arab brutality? What terms are to be used when they behead babies, roast their bodies, and return them to their mothers on a dish of rice? How does the media portray the horrific accounts of Christians being persecuted in Iraq?

It doesn’t. In fact, the media are largely silent on such matters.

Since the invasion of Iraq, Muslim militants have bombed 28 churches and murdered hundreds of Christians. They have beheaded priests, raped girls, and crucified boys.

In this Holy Week, let us remember that the Passion of Christ reverberates in the appalling suffering of Christians in many Islamic countries. The silence of the media makes it complicit, and its blindness is unforgivable.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Round 1: Religious conscience v Sexual orientation

It was only a matter of time before such cases were brought to court, and The Observer brings us the first round of the clash between a homosexual youth worker and a bishop. The former 'is a committed Christian who has devoted his life to sharing his Christian faith with others’, while the latter professes to be dissatisfied by answers given by the man over his private life.

The Bishop of Hereford, the Right Reverend Anthony Priddis, has therefore declined to employ John Reaney, and the letter of rejection is purported to state the reason being ‘because he was a practising homosexual’. Cranmer thinks this more than a little unlikely, since although bishops may occasionally lapse in areas of faith and doctrine, they are not generally known for their stupidity or crass insensitivity.

Mr Reaney is taking his case to an employment tribunal, and this is the first case of its kind. At the moment, appointments to the clergy are exempt from having to conform with anti-discrimination laws on the grounds of sexual orientation, but lay appointments and clerical posts are not included. But the Diocese of Hereford has said: 'We expect the same sexual standards of behaviour from our support ministers or lay ministers as we do of clergy.' And herein lies an interesting legal battle. Why should the church be free to reject a practising homosexual vicar, and not a homosexual youth worker? The vicar is responsible for the pastoral care and moral welfare of his flock, but the youth worker carries precisely that same responsibility, yet for minds and lives even more vulnerable.

The timing is excellent – just at the precise moment of conflict between the right to assert orthodox Christian beliefs and further equality laws being passed by Parliament to protect the rights of homosexual people. The gay equality organisation Stonewall is consequently railing against the Church of England for its ‘quite offensive 19th-century prejudice'.

Cranmer looks forward to the judgement of the tribunal with great interest, and is only annoyed that the case is not being brought by a homosexual youth worker against a mosque.
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