Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Muslims and the Conservative Party

When the Conservative Party launched its interim report on community cohesion – Uniting the Country – it was a serious attempt to listen, to engage, to avoid the ‘clash of civilisations’ apocalypse which the pre-millennialists widely prophesy. Some minority ethnic groups embraced the progress – in particular those of an Indian Sikh and Hindu heritage – but it has been rejected virtually wholesale by those who profess to speak on behalf of Pakistani Muslims. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) deemed it to be ‘poorly researched and poorly argued’, and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) considered it a ‘weak and damaging document which made unsubstantiated comments’.

This tone of criticism from these organisations is proof positive that the Conservative Party is on the right track. The reality is that Conservatism and Islam could find much that unites them, not least because the essence of Conservatism coheres with all expressions of faith. The mistake (and unintended offence) is in trying to identify a Muslim community, for, like all religions and cults, it is riddled with dissent and division. The Muslim communities do cannot agree among themselves on virtually any matter, save the status of the Qur’an and a professed reverence for Mohammed. When it comes to global politics, the likes of the MCB and MPAC would have us believe that there is one Islamic answer to Israel/Palestine, one Islamic answer to terrorism, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Kashmir; indeed, one Islamic answer to just about everything, and every 'proper' Muslim ought to desire Shari'a law in the UK and be dedicated to ushering in the Caliphate.

But, in reality, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are as unconcerned with these macro-political issues as Christians are with 'Europe'. There is, instead, an overriding concern with domestic politics – mundane matters of everyday living in a liberal Western democracy – and the vast majority of Muslims are content to integrate and assimilate, desiring to live their lives privately, bring up their families respectfully, live side-by-side peaceably with respect for the rule of law and gratitude for the liberties they enjoy. These are recurrent Qur'anic themes of universal application. These liberal Muslims (which the media patronisingly term 'moderate') are innately conservative, and they are undoubtedly more Conservative than Liberal: they desire individual freedom, and prioritise personal and family responsibility. They want their children (male and female) to be well-educated, they want them to be successful, and they embrace the principles of the free market economy as they desire to make something better of themselves, unfettered by overbearing government.

When Mr Cameron went to live with a Muslim family, it at least constituted an attempt to reach out to an alienated group who feel that they have no fixed abode; it gave the impression of loving one’s neighbour. Unfortunately, a rather high profile Conservative Muslim has dismissed this as disingenous PR. In a scathing attack on Mr Cameron, Ali Miraj, a candidate in the last General Election, insists that ‘the Tories have still not realised that it takes more than picking an Asian candidate to reverse a scandalous neglect of engaging with people from ethnic minorities since the days of Enoch Powell’.

This is an uneducated and warped view of history, a misunderstanding of Conservative philosophy, and a gross misrepresentation of the views of Enoch Powell. If Conservatism is about anything, it is equality, and out of an understanding of the meaning of equality arises the principle of meritocracy. While the Socialists would seek to assist the advancement of Mr Miraj by placing him into a host of convenient pigeon-holes and labelling him black, Asian, or Muslim (or, for that matter, gay, straight, or Christian) and demanding that he tick all the right boxes in order to facilitate their programmes of social engineering, the Conservative Party views him as an individual. He is human and British (even English), but beyond that there is nothing with which Conservatism ought to concern itself.

Far from there having been a ‘scandalous neglect’ of ethnic minorities since the 1970s, there have been concerted efforts to listen, involve, and engage. And neither has this been a patronising Empire approach, but a dialogue of equals. Out of this has emerged Conservative groups for both Muslims and Sikhs, and the lack of a Hindu forum is probably only down to the fact that few understand what Ganesh and Krishna are all about. There is something monotheistic about Conservatism, but not monolithically and irredeemably so. It can adapt and mould to all cultures, and find expression in all faiths.

Just as the Apostle Paul praised the faith of Athenians at the Areopagus, it is time for the Conservative Party to proclaim the incomparability of its own creed, and boast of its life-giving liberty, respect for the family, the upholding of tradition, and universal edification. And then it might consider highlighting just how profoundly damaging a decade of Labour has been for all faiths in the United Kingdom, with the diminution of marriage, the restrictions on free speech, and the perpetual affront to matters of religious conscience.

Pace Ali Miraj, the ‘ethnic minorities’ will come flocking.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Abortion: ‘a conveyor belt which is impossible to stop’

Cranmer has been told numerous times that religion and politics do not mix, or should not mix, or that the Church should play no part in government, but there are some issues (and an increasing number) where the two are inseparably fused. Abortion is one such. Last year, 635,679 babies were born in the UK, and 194,000 abortions were performed. 23.3 per cent of all pregnancies last year therefore ended in abortion, and the proportion is increasing. The 1967 Abortion Act was never meant to be used as retroactive contraception, and neither was it passed to give women ‘rights’. It was in response to a public health problem, and the law gave the rights and responsibility for decision making to doctors. The Act did not legalise abortion per se, but allowed for exceptions to its illegality.

Yet there is a disturbing story in The Guardian which exemplifies the extent to which abortion has become society’s norm. It tells of a woman who was forced by an NHS trust to have an abortion despite her attempts to withdraw her consent, and despite her repeated attempts to have her questions answered. The Princess Alexandra hospital in Harlow, Essex, has agreed to pay £27,500 to her by way of compensation, for aborting her unborn baby against her will.

It beggars belief that a woman about to undergo what must be a profoundly traumatic experience was not handled in a sympathetic and understanding manner. She enquired quite specifically as to whether the procedure ‘would be traumatic for the foetus’, but answer came there none. Of course there wasn’t. One only has to view photographs of terminations to discern that ‘trauma’ isn’t the half of it. She was carted off to theatre ‘upset and tearful’, and there her child’s life was terminated, against her will, against her conscience, and against the purposes of God. It was, she said, as if she was ‘on a conveyor belt which was impossible to stop’.

This ought to have been classed as murder. Despite the acceptance of the out-of-court settlement, £27,500 ‘compensation’ is wholly inadequate. Is that really the value of a baby? A child has been killed by over-zealous medical practitioners, and there is to be no police investigation, no arrests, and no trial. Instead, the Princess Alexandra hospital has apologised for ‘shortcomings in the care’.

So that’s alright then.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gay priests are the 'backbone of the Church'

So says the Bishop of New Hampshire, the Right Rev Gene Robinson, who is divorced from his wife and lives in a partnership with a gay man. Apparently, the Church of England would be on the edge of collapse if it were ever obliged to perform its ministry without homosexual clergy. He says: ‘If all the gay people stayed away from church on a given Sunday the Church of England would be close to shut down between its organists, its clergy, its wardens’.
He also finds it ‘mystifying’ that the Church is unable to be honest about the number of gay clergy in its ranks, not least because ‘many of the English church's clergy live openly in their rectories with gay partners, with the full knowledge of their bishops’.

How does he know? Is he friends with them all? Do he and his husband / wife / partner invite them all around for tea and cake every Sunday afternoon, and talk to them of their sexual preferences and predilections? Where are the statistics for this assertion? Empirical evidence?

Bishop Robinson believes his stance on homosexuality to be consistent with the traditions of the Church of England. With the prospect of discipline, and the formulation of an Anglican Covenant, he says: ‘the whole notion of punishment being meted out to provinces of the Anglican Communion that are somehow non-compliant is somehow antithetical to the whole Anglican tradition, positing some sort of centralised Curia that has the ability and the authority to do such a thing, is about as un-Anglican as you can imagine. After all, our church was founded in resistance to a centralised authority in Rome. And so to pose the possibility of such a centralised Curia with those kinds of authorities seems to me to be as un-traditional as it could be’.

And in his exhortation of Reformation principles, he emphasises his own evangelical roots, because when he speak to gay and lesbian groups, he doesn’t talk to them about gay rights – he talks to them ‘about their souls’. His goal ‘is to get them to church and bring them to Jesus’.

Great.

But let's just set aside Sola Scriptura, shall we, because of all the evangelical tenets, it's just a tad inconvenient.

It is no wonder that the Bishop of Rome reasserts his belief that the Roman Catholic Church is the only church and that the Church of England (amongst others) are simply playing at being so. There is ceasing to be any viability in the via media, and to be Anglican is becoming synonymous with equivocation, indecision, and intolerable compromise. As the Lambeth Conference looms, there are ever-increasing threats of boycott, and the whole house of cards might yet come tumbling down.

But the good thing to come out of this is that Cranmer has discovered what the Archbishop of Canterbury has been doing on his ‘study leave’. Apparently, he has ‘almost completed a book on Russian author Dostoevsky’.

He must be a very slow reader.

Cranmer hopes that Archbishop Williams may similarly experience all the fullness of conversion, and rediscover the meaning of orthodoxy.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hindu priorities and Sikh dishonour

These two faiths attract nothing like the column inches presently apportioned to Islam, yet two recent issues merit a little analysis. The whole world now appears to have heard of Shambo, the unfortunate bull which contracted bovine tuberculosis and had to be ‘slaughtered’ (as opposed to being ‘put down’ with a humane injection , which it was, but ‘slaughter’ sounds so much more barbaric and newsworthy). But why has the Skanda Vale community raised a 24,000-name petition protesting at the ‘desecration of sacred life’, but has not said a word about the wider issue of Hindu suffering? Why weep over the euthanised bull, but not mutter a whisper for the systematic slaughter of Hindus in Kashmir? Or their persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan or Malaysia?

According to the Hindu Human Rights group, ‘the frequent killing of Hindus in Kashmir generally meets a typical muted response by the world media and human rights organisations. Tragically, the apathy with regards to such incidents extends to the general Indian public and government too. Perhaps the reason is that such indiscriminate killings of Hindus have become so commonplace, that it is just accepted now as part of the way things are.’

So while Hindu women are being raped, men tortured and massacred, and children burned to death, the monks of Skanda Vale might consider a sense of perspective, and use the opportunity to bring to the world’s attention a forgotten genocide.

And it would be remiss of Cranmer not to mention the Sikh ‘honour killing’ – a practice (and misnomer) which hitherto has been associated in the UK with Islam. A 70-year-old grandmother and her son conspired to murder his wife because she was seeking a divorce. The case goes back to 1998, but evidence has only recently come to light to permit a trial to take place.

These killings of manifest dishonour are shrouded in cultural self-justification, often deploying religious language. The Mohammedans can support the degradation of women, referring to the Qur’anic injunction on wife-beating (4.34), but Sikhs have no such recourse to a ‘word of God’. The practice may, therefore, be a product of religious or cultural prejudice of the sub-continent, but it may also be a further example of Sikhs in the UK following the example Mohammedans.

The Sikh community bared its teeth a few years ago when 400 of them descended on a Birmingham theatre to demand the play Behzti (‘dishonour’) be cancelled because it caused them offence. They insisted: ‘In a Sikh temple, sexual abuse does not take place, kissing and dancing don't take place, rape doesn't take place, homosexual activity doesn't take place, murders do not take place.’

Try telling that to the Southall Black Sisters, a charity which has chronicled many such incidents. But one simply no longer dare say so, for fear of being accused of being ‘racist’.

The reality is that minority religious groups are becoming increasingly belligerent in asserting their ‘rights’, and when these are deemed to conflict with the law of the land, there is protest, intimidation, or violence. Islam may be the present media obsession, but it would be a mistake to assume that some other minority faiths are or intend to remain peaceable, respectful, and compliant.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Vatican warns of ‘the Islamisation of Europe’

Cranmer is grateful to his communicant Mr Voyager for bringing to his attention the fact that Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, private secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, has issued a stark warning over the danger of the ‘Islamisation of Europe’. His status in the Holy See and proximity to the Bishop of Rome inclines Cranmer to believe that he speaks with the full authority of His Holiness, and that his message is fully sanctioned by the man who, after Regensburg, can no longer voice such concerns in public. This comment is aimed at western governments, who are tending to capitulate entirely to accommodate Islam at whatever cost to their Christian heritage.

But the theme is clearly Benedict’s, and concerns the desperate need for Europe to rediscover its ‘Christian roots’ as the only bulwark against ‘attempts to Islamise the West’. In defending the Pope’s Regensburg address, Mgr Gaenswein says: ‘The danger for the identity of Europe that is connected with it should not be ignored out of a wrongly understood respectfulness’. Regensburg, he insists, was an attempt to ‘act against a certain naivety’, observing the increasing reluctance (BBC, take note) to juxtapose Islam and violence, when they are quite plainly linked in both the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Thus does the Monsignor speak of Islam as ‘not being a single force but a religion of extremes’, with extremists who ‘turn to rifles for their goals’.

You see, Islamists do not need to constitute a majority in any country; they simply have to possess bombs and guns, and be dedicated to ‘jihad’. If Ulster is anything to go by (or South Africa, or Israel), such a strategy will eventually lead to participation in government and the fulfilment of one’s religio-political objectives.

Of course, one needs a pope like Benedict to make such points, especially when archbishops like Rowan are still on ‘study leave’, but there is an inescapable tension for the Roman Catholic Church in the articulation of such views.

It was not so long ago that Roman Catholics were the demonised minority religion in England, and suffered as a consequence of their religio-political convictions. Jews, of course, have suffered similarly for centuries. Talk of an Islamic take-over of Europe is a precursor to hysteria, which, if left unchallenged, leads at best to alienation or stigmatisation, or, at worst, to the abhorrent persecution and genocidal tendencies associated with fascism.

And it is not as if Islam, unlike Roman Catholicism, has a single leader under whose unified authority the worldwide brotherhood sits. Islam is divided and disparate; it is secular and religious; it is obsessive and indifferent. But it is unified in its cult, and the object of its reverence is Mohammed. And it is the imitation of his 7th-century exploits which constitutes either the ‘extremism’ or ‘devotion’.

But speaking as one who suffered directly at the hands of Roman Catholic extremists, Cranmer would remind the Pope of Rome that his predecessors were once quite happy to burn people who did not toe the party line, and wage 'holy war' against the infidel. Islam is now where Rome was until just four centuries ago, and since Islam is about four centuries younger than Roman Catholicism, a little more understanding of the struggles and traumas intrinsic to the process of reformation might be in order.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Prime Minister’s Evasions

It is said, and widely observed, that the peoples of the United Kingdom are increasingly disillusioned by the political process, and have little, if any, respect for their political leaders. There is a crisis of confidence in our democracy, and turn-out at elections appears to be in terminal decline. Yesterday’s PMQs perhaps highlights one reason for this. It has ceased to be about holding the government to account, but has become a tedious exercise in duplicity and obfuscation. But tedious for whom? Backbenchers on both sides of the house revel in the theatre, as do political ‘anoraks’ who understand something of the importance of ‘Punch & Judy’ politics which at least gives a semblance of a functioning government and opposition. But for the ordinary voting public, the occasion is both an incomprehensible mystery and a profound disappointment. They want answers, yet all they get is evasion.

When the Leader of the Opposition raised a question about the EU constitution, the mutterings turned to uproar. It appears that the mere mention of ‘Europe’ is sufficient to fan the flames of disapproval, as if merely raising the issue were heresy. One could almost sense the desire to drag Mr Cameron from his pulpit and march him through the streets to his stake, where his body might be consumed by flames. But Mr Cameron’s crime was to ask a very precise question about a very precise subject of not insignificant importance to the governance of this nation:

The Irish Prime Minister says that 90 per cent of the constitution remains in the treaty and the Spanish Foreign Minister says that 98 per cent remains. What figure would the Prime Minister put on it?

The Prime Minister responded:

I see, Mr Speaker, that we are quickly back to the old agenda. I have to tell the Rt. Hon. Gentleman that, if he examines each aspect of the treaty and what we secured in our negotiations, he should support it, not oppose it. The first issue is the charter of rights - t is non-justiciable in British law, so we secured our negotiating objective. The second is justice and home affairs - we have an opt-in, so we secured our negotiating objective. The third issue is security, foreign affairs and defence policy, which remains intergovernmental, so we secured our objective. The fourth is social security - no expenditure affecting us will be made without an emergency brake that we can put on, so we secured our negotiating objective. National security will remain a matter for individual Governments, so we secured our negotiating objective. He might be better off, in the interests of unity within his own party, looking at what the chair of his democracy taskforce said only a few days ago. He said that, as a result of what we had negotiated, a European referendum would be ‘crackpot’, ‘dotty’ and ‘frankly absurd’.

A simple question which used figures and statistics comprehensible to any voter could have been simply answered, but the Prime Minister might as well have responded in Greek. Of course, politicians, the intelligentsia, and readers of Cranmer’s august blog understand the response, but for the ordinary voter-in-the-street the answer was a turn-off. There is little understanding, if any, of how this Westminster cult operates, and its priestly cabal appears alien to those outside.

The facts are clear:

In 2005, the Government promised a referendum on the ‘Constitution for Europe’.

While this has morphed into a ‘treaty’, M. Giscard d'Estaing says that more than 90 per cent of the Constitution remains, and Jean-Luc Dehaene says that 95 per cent remains.

The President of the Commission refers to the EU as ‘the world's first non-imperial empire’.

Labour’s Trade Minister, Lord (Digby) Jones, says: ‘This is a con to call this a treaty; it's not. It's exactly the same: it’s a constitution.’

Both friends and foes of the new 'treaty' deem it to be identical to the previous 'constitution'. Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde says that there is not 'one single difference in legal obligations'.

But the Prime Minister insists that ‘The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing Treaties and replacing them by a single text called “Constitution”, is abandoned.’

It is as though the constant recital of the mantra brings it into being; the words make truth. Democracy has been supplanted by glossocracy: government of the people, by the people and for the people, has been replaced by government of the word, by the word and for the word. And the more meaningless the word, the more useful it is for glossocrats. This is the impulse behind political correctness, which twists and obscures everyday language and terms, and enforces new words by changing the meaning of old ones. This totalitarian pursuit has been most effective in tearing down the religious fabric of society and eliminating the Church and Judeo-Christian thinking as ideological competitors. Thus words become weapons of crowd control, and those who fail to use the acceptable terms or to comply with the new definitions are heretics.

‘Europe’ is one such word. It is now synonymous with enlightenment, progress, optimism, truth, future, and salvation. To be ‘Euro-sceptic’ is to incarnate the antitheses of backward-looking medievalism, lies, and damnation. Yet the ordinary voting public somehow senses that this is not the case. There is something in the psyche of the British people which knows, deep down, that ‘Europe’ is antithetical to ‘British’.

If Mr Cameron were to make a manifesto pledge to a retrospective referendum on this ‘treaty’, there would, for the first time in a generation, be ‘clear blue water’ between the parties on Europe. The ordinary voting public would comprehend this, and be eternally grateful for the choice. Such a pledge would not only rally his own troops, it would bring back the errant UKIP vote by the thousand.

Trust the voting public, Mr Cameron: let the people decide.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mark Shaw QC: ‘Muslims should be able to lead Christian Unions’

Cranmer reported last year on the plight of the Christian Union at Exeter University, which was being forced by the Student Guild to change its name to Exeter 'Evangelical' Christian Union following one complaint (in a 50 year period) by a student. The Guild also froze the CU’s bank account and wrote to them banning them from holding or advertising events on Guild premises.

Mark Shaw QC, the independent adjudicator appointed by Exeter University, strongly criticised the Constitution of Exeter CU because it restricted the membership to Christians, despite the fact its meetings were open to everyone – of all faiths and none. He held it discriminatory that the CU should be run by Christians and held that the Guild policies in forcing the CU to be led by members open to other faiths was ‘laudable’. He concluded that Muslims should be able not only to attend meetings, but also to lead the Christian Union. Cranmer looks forward to the counter assertion, yet to be brought, that a Christian should be permitted to lead the Mohammedans’ Friday prayers.

Ben Martin, the Christian student at the centre of the row over the Human Rights of members of the Christian Union, has rejected the Independent Adjudication into the case as ‘unbalanced and selective’. He will be seeking a Judicial Review in the High Court. On January 5, he filed papers at the High Court asking for a Judicial Review of the Guild's actions under the Human Rights Act. He was subsequently informed that the University would require the CU to go through an informal internal adjudication procedure before any external procedure could be followed.

First, the University tried to impose a leading lawyer with strong connections to the National Union of Students on the CU as adjudicator. The process was then delayed to after Easter (a time when students are revising or sitting exams). Following complaints, the University brought in another barrister, this time a QC, Mark Shaw (there is no obligation to appoint a barrister, only an independent person of standing in the community).

Ben Martin said: ‘The university established an internal appeals process to resolve the dispute and the CU engaged with the process in full seeking a non judicial resolution of the dispute. Out of primarily public funds, the university and Guild had access to leading firms of solicitors and barristers (including QCs) whilst the CU were denied all such assistance.

‘Mr Shaw determined that the process should be “legal” rather than informal as is usually the case, and also decided that the process should deal with substantive and procedural issues of law. He also stated that the CU should be prepared to pay the costs of the university and Guild which could have been more than £50,000.’

When the CU complained at the legalised process, asked for an informal process without lawyers and that they should not be subject to costs, Mr Shaw refused.

Mr Martin said: ‘Any criticism of this process by the CU resulted in a sharp response from Mr Shaw, together with claims that the CU was uncooperative. Only when the CU refused to continue with a process that could bankrupt them, was there a guarantee of no costs.

‘Mr Shaw held that the Guild were “laudable” in their aims, the University had no responsibility for the discrimination against Christians, and that the CU was wrong to require that those leading the CU should be Christians. That position, he said, could be held by anyone of any faith or none, provided they agree to the objectives of the CU!

‘In paragraph 92 (4) of his adjudication, Mr Shaw even goes on to suggest that on the Exeter University campus, the “Welsh Society should be open to Scottish members; the wine society open to teetotal members, the choral society should be open to non-singing members, and the cheerleading society should be open to male members ...”

‘Quite frankly, reading this from a QC, you don't know whether to laugh or cry! I would advise any student who wants to use the “informal” adjudication process to be prepared to face QCs and potential costs beyond their means.

‘I fully co-operated with Mr Shaw and he has treated my fundamental rights of religious association and belief in a derisory fashion. Issues of religious association and freedom of speech are fundamental human rights and not ones on which I, or the CU is prepared to compromise.’

The CU at Exeter has always said that taking the matter to Court would be a last resort, but in light of the Independent Adjudication from Mr Shaw, the CU finds itself in a position where it has no other option by to instruct the Human Right's barrister Paul Diamond to instigate Judicial Review proceedings against the University and Guild. Mr Diamond has recently advocated on behalf of Nadia Eweida (which was won) and Lydia Playfoot (which was lost).

The formal response of the University of Exeter can be found here.

Notwithstanding the risks, the judgement of Mark Shaw is absurd, and needs to be challenged. Cranmer can't stand the thought of tone-deaf students asserting their human right to join the Gilbert & Sullivan Society...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Water, water everywhere…

The United Kingdom must be the only country in the world where both drought and flood lead to drinking water shortages. The situation ranks with the shut-down of transport networks because of ‘leaves on the line’, or ‘the wrong type of snow’. Cranmer awaits notification of the Environment Agency that we are suffering ‘the wrong type of rain’. Or a declaration from a senior cleric of the Church of England that this is God’s judgement upon homosexuals / Mohammedans / government / Church / idolaters / those who build on flood plains.

Yet as it was in the days of Noah – they did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all although the Lord promised Noah that things would never again be as bad as extermination of humanity through flood. If this story has any relevance today, it is an exhortation to righteousness and preparedness.

Noah was called to a lengthy period of preparation, and he was commissioned to build the Ark according to strict dimensions, even though there was no apparent water to float it. His mission involved ridicule, opposition, sacrificial effort, tenacity, and self-discipline. The Ark was a vessel of salvation. Noah never knew when the flood would come until a few days before the event, but he knew that it would come, and he was prepared.

David Cameron is also called to a lengthy period of preparation, and he was commissioned to formulate an election-winning strategy, even though there is no apparent water to float it. His mission involves ridicule, opposition, sacrificial effort, tenacity, and self-discipline. Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is the only hope the United Kingdom has. Mr Cameron does not know when the General Election will come, but he knows that it will come…

…so why is he refusing to respond to ‘events’? Why is he in Rwanda when his own constituents are homeless and distraught? Why is he not holding the Government to account? Why is he not speaking on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by this appalling weather? Why is he not weeping with those who weep, comforting the homeless, the distressed, and those with no insurance who have lost everything?

And Cranmer is not saying that the needs of Rwanda are any less than the needs of the United Kingdom; indeed, in very many respects they are a very great deal more. And neither is Cranmer insisting that Mr Cameron should be building drainage ditches in Witney rather than lavatories in Rwanda. But the primary task must be to appear credible as he prepares for government, and, once there, he can pour billions into whatever causes he wishes. Instead, he is in Rwanda, re-building a school and teaching children to play cricket, while the Prime Minister avoids the awkward questions and pontificates about ‘global warming’ or ‘changing weather patterns’. Mr Cameron gives the appearance of being more concerned with private pilgrimage and a collective rite of passage as he meditates on genocide and deprivation, but he insists that this is the ‘spirit of the Conservative Party’. And so he declares that all rich countries should end trade tariffs unilaterally because present trade rules are 'immoral' (is he aware of the CAP; he is proposing unilateral withdrawal?). He is more concerned with the ‘divisions of our world’ than divisions within his Party, because ‘there is no “domestic” and “foreign” any more’.

Compassionate Conservatism ought to begin at home.

Antennae, Mr Cameron, antennae…

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Will Turkey vote for Islam? (update: yes, it did...)

As Turkey holds what is being billed as the most important parliamentary elections in its history, the secular is said to be confronting the Islamic. The election was called early to defuse a political crisis over the ruling party's choice of presidential candidate. But while the governing AKP talks of its economic legacy and hopes joining the EU, the opposition parties have focused on accusing the Islamic-rooted party of threatening Turkey's secular system. The situation is not helped by Erdogan’s threats of invading Northern Iraq to resolve the Kurdish issue, which has been responsible for 70 Turkish deaths this summer, and is fuelling nationalism and nationalist candidates. A key player among them is the Republican People's Party, or CHP, which was established by Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It maintains his secularist legacy, but has slid into overt nationalism, and opposition to EU membership ‘in defence of national interests’.

But this is a fraction of the story. Turkey is not as secular as is popularly believed; indeed, there are state ‘favours’ and financial advantages for Islam which Christianity manifestly does not enjoy. Since the 1980 military coup, schoolchildren attend obligatory classes in Islam, and there is no freedom of speech. The hijab is also making a return, despite the constitutional prohibition. And Christians have been imprisoned and murdered for daring to even question the tenets of Islam. Indeed, some have been murdered whether they have questioned Islam or not; the mere whiff of accusation is deemed sufficient for the self-appointed defenders of Mohammed to follow his example, and slaughter the kuffar.

And Turkey’s ‘secular’ state turns a blind eye to all this, and more. Reports persist of its ill treatment of women, and the use of torture, and Turkey also has a pathological inability to accept responsibility for its past. It remain illegal to even talk of the genocide of over a million Armenians during the First World War, and any inference that Kurds are being killed or being denied fundamental human rights will be met with arrest for ‘insulting the national character’.

According to Colonel Gaddafi (in whom Cranmer places no credibility or recognises any authority, but cites in this instance because on this issue he may indeed be right), ‘Turkey will be an Islamic Trojan Horse inside the European Union if it is allowed to join the bloc, to the advantage of Al Qaeda terror chief Osama Bin Laden and other extremists’. Islam and Islamism are certainly fermenting into a formidable force in Turkey, and the implications for the EU ‘Christian Club’ are considerable. While some argue that a Turkey in the EU would be compelled to change its view of religion and adapt its culture, leopards and spots come to mind.

UPDATE:

With a turnout estimated at 80 per cent(!) in a country of 74 million people, it is confirmed that Turkey has in fact voted for Islam. And with quite a sizeable majority. The Islamist-rooted Justice and Development party (AKP) won 46.4 per cent of the popular vote, giving it 340 seats in the 550-seat parliament.

So Recep Tayyip Erdogan is re-elected as Turkey's prime minister. One now awaits the reaction of the army as he attempts to re-appoint fellow former Islamist, foreign minister Abdullah Gul, as president.

There is now a distinct possibility of a military coup, and this result scuppers all hopes of Turkey's accession to the EU (not least because the French possess the ultimate veto with their constitutional requirement to hold a referendum on the matter).

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Where is the Muslim outrage?

The Guardian is of the opinion that 'an inability to tolerate Islam contradicts western values'. This may be deemed a little insensitive, coming in the week that a ‘strict Muslim’ father was jailed for life (ie 20 years) for murdering his daughter in an 'honour killing' because she brought ‘shame’ on his family by falling in love with the wrong man. What is 'Islam' and what is 'Islamic'? How is The Guardian defining these terms? Why does it not seek the voice of outrage from those within the 'Islamic' community? And what of the hanging of children in Iran, or the stoning of women and girls, the beheadings, female 'circumcision' and the barbaric mutilation of criminals in other lands? Should all this be tolerated because it is 'Islamic'? Just where is the objecting voice of 'moderate Islam' amidst all of this?



This radio phone-in is a few months old, but it is interesting and worth listening to all the way through. The host, Neal Boortz, is rather hard-hitting, and Cranmer can’t help but feel some sympathy for the polite and mild-mannered Mohammedan who attempts to advocate on behalf of Islam (…incidentally, since when do Mohammedans who are born Mohammedan have names like Will?). The principal fault is Boortz’s tactic of refusing to allow the caller to finish his point, or even make his point. This is a tactic frequently deployed by Mohammedans to silence their opponents, and reason cannot prevail. Nonetheless, the starkness of the truth of ‘Islamic tolerance’ and the bleakness of the reality of the ‘religion of peace’ are evident for all. And there is something refreshingly cathartic about listening to Islamist rhetorical tactics used against the apologists of Islam instead of by them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Give us this day our referendum

Compare and contrast:

Speaking of the imminent EU ‘Reform Treaty’, the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon David Miliband, has said: ‘The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing treaties and replacing them by a single text called “Constitution”, is abandoned’. There is, therefore, no need for a referendum.

But Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the god-father, architect, and creator of the Constitution for Europe, has declared: ‘This text is, in fact, a rerun of a great part of the substance of the constitutional treaty… the public is being led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly’. He said that differences between the new treaty and the constitution ‘are few and far between and more cosmetic than real’. In comparing his role in drawing up the blueprint to that of America's founding fathers, he said the term 'constitution' had been dropped simply to ‘make a few people happy’.

Jean-Luc Dehaene MEP, the former prime minister of Belgium, noted that ‘95 per cent of the constitution was back’. He said it was no surprise that voters were confused: ‘We drafted a treaty with a constitutional content and form. Now we have a treaty with a constitutional content without the form. But both are a treaty and neither is a constitution. The ambiguous use of words has led to misunderstandings’.

Giuliano Amato, the former Prime Minister of Italy, has said that the revived EU constitution has deliberately been made ‘unreadable’ to help fend off demands for a referendum: ‘EU leaders had decided that the document to be drawn up by an intergovernmental conference should be unreadable… If this is the kind of document that the IGC will produce, any prime minister - imagine the UK prime minister - can go to the Commons and say “Look, you see, it's absolutely unreadable, it's the typical Brussels treaty, nothing new, no need for a referendum”... Should you succeed in understanding it there might be some reason for a referendum, because it would mean that there is something new.''

The three 'founding fathers' of the Constitution for Europe are in complete accord that the 'Reform Treaty' is nothing other than their creation. In its 2001 manifesto, Labour agreed that there would be a referendum on the EU constitution. The façade may have morphed into a ‘treaty’, but it is the assertion of its authors that the underlying character is completely unchanged. For Gordon Brown to insist with the pretence that it is just another ‘unreadable’ treaty is a lie.

At Westminster, there is emerging a cross-party campaign for a referendum. It is said to include as many as 40 Labour MPs, and two huge unions (The Transport & General and Unison) are joining the demands. As the Prime Minister glows in his two by-election victories, it is time to prepare for an autumn battle which even BBC bias could not supress. There will not be a general election, because the timetable for ratification of the ‘Reform Treaty’ would be imperilled. No, the battle must strategically orchestrated, and intensely focused on demands for a referendum, day after day, week after week. This is the time to be Churchillian.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bishop urged to resign for gay discrimination

When Cranmer first reported this, he raised a number of issues which, all taken together, inclined him to believe that common sense would prevail, and that the courts would decide that church youth work falls under the exemptions from the 2003 sexual orientation legislation granted to religious organisations.

It appears that Round One has been lost: common sense has not prevailed, Cranmer’s inclination was flawed, and the law is an ass.

The Bishop of Hereford is now facing calls for his resignation after the ruling by an employment tribunal that gay youth worker John Reaney had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sexual orientation. This ruling clearly indicates that the exemptions granted to religious organisations are very narrow indeed, and probably only apply to the most senior clerical positions.

Mr Reaney declared his sexuality on the application form for the job of youth worker in Hereford, and after preliminary interviews was told that subject the consent of the bishop, he would be appointed. When Bishop Priddis discovered that the youth worker had recently come out of a five-year relationship, the bishop felt inclined to ask further questions about Mr Reaney’s personal life. He said: ‘It would not have been right for me to take an undertaking of his head that his heart could not keep’, namely that he would remain celibate, in line with church teachings.

The bishop therefore decided Mr Reaney was not suitable for the job, and turned him down.

The Church will now have to consider very carefully indeed before it decides not to employ any homosexual in ministry. Whilst it may certainly be the case that a rejected homosexual may not have been the best applicant for a post, any whiff of an accusation of discrimination may lead straight to the courts and demands for compensation.

But the most significant development here is that the Church of England has been confronted with the full force of statute law which challenges its orthodoxy. Should church leaders ever dare to preach again that homosexuality is a sin, or an ‘abomination’, they risk being perpetually undermined by the fact that their own youth leaders may be in openly homosexual relationships, and these influential mentors and role models symbolise the gulf of disparity that exists between the scriptural exhortations to sexual purity, and the state’s imposition of leaders who may be legitimately disbarred from positions of spiritual authority by appeal to the scriptural standards expected of them.

Cranmer’s main irritation, however, is that this case was brought first against a much respected and wholly respectable bishop in a toothless Church of England. He looks forward enormously to such cases being brought against the Roman Catholic Church and the Council of Mosques, who tend to bare rather more teeth…

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Junior doctors - another NHS crisis of confidence

It is not often that Cranmer is genuinely baffled, but on this matter he certainly is. Some 34,000 fully-trained doctors have applied for jobs via MTAS, the discredited on-line application system for junior doctors seeking specialist training posts. Some found employment, but it is estimated that there are about 10,000 British-trained doctors who have failed to find a job. These are facing all of the contingent problems associated with unemployment - depression, low self-esteem, struggling to make ends meet. It is no wonder that there is an emerging mental health crisis among them.

But this is this nothing to do with their qualifications. We are talking about Cambridge graduates with First Class degrees and distinctions, but no CVs are able to be submitted. No prospective employer may therefore discern how many research papers an applicant has had published or even what type of degrees they have got. Bizarrely, research into the issue reveals that the better a doctor is qualified, the less likely they were to have been offered a training job.

But to Cranmer’s bemusement…

With so many unemployed, highly-qualified British doctors trained at the expense of the British tax-payer, why is the NHS importing second-rate doctors from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Holy Cow!

Yes, alright, Cranmer knows that Shambo is actually a bull, but he was trying to avoid the ‘load of bull’ headline, and he also has a rather more important theological point to make.

Apparently, this ‘sacred’ bull was given a death sentence after testing positive for TB. It is the policy (indeed, obligation) of the Welsh Assembly to minimise risks of the disease spreading. Under the 1981 Animal Health Act or The Tuberculosis (Wales) Order 2006, many farmers have had hundreds of animals destroyed as part of bovine TB controls. But a High Court judge in Cardiff has decided that Shambo raises Human Rights issues…

Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights guarantees the right to ‘manifest’ religious beliefs.

Hmm…

The Skanda Vale Community in Llanpumsaint, Carmarthen, is a Hindu community. They term themselves ‘multi-faith’, but their root is most definitely Hindu. David Anderson QC for the Hindu monks argued that Shambo was an animal of ‘considerable religious importance’ and as such a policy devised for farm animals could not be applied to it. He said members of the community believed that slaughtering the six-year-old black Friesian would be ‘a desecration of the temple’ (which is, in fact, a stable).

For the Hindu, and, indeed, all faiths that believe in samsara – the cycle of life and death – all life is sacred. Yet in the Hindu faith, it is the cow, not the bull, which is particularly honoured. The Rig Veda talks much of cattle, but it is the ‘milk-bearing’ herds which are equated with goddesses and the intrinsic notion of maternal provision.

By declaring that a ‘religion’ (undefined) may choose its own idols, decide that any arbitrary something may be ‘of religious importance’, and insist that it a bull is ‘a member of the community’, the judge has opened the floodgates for exemptions from law from anything that defines itself as a ‘religious community’. Public health and the economic wellbeing of the agricultural community are henceforth to take second place to spurious religious beliefs.

So the next time there is an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, Cranmer urges farmers to insist that their animals are ‘part of their community’; that all life is sacred; that their lifestyle has a heritage of millennia, and is founded upon the rhythms of nature and the bounty of Mother Earth; and that wholesale slaughter is a ‘desecration of the temple’, for in that temple dwells the Holy Spirit of God.

And let us see what a judge makes of that.

Yet the judgement on the ‘sacred bull’ came on the same day as that for Lydia Playfoot – a teenage Christian who wears a ring on her finger. She chose to join the ‘Silver Ring Thing’, and is one of a number of students at the Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, who wears a silver ring engraved with a Biblical reference - 1 Thessalonians 4:3f – as a sign of her belief in abstinence from sex until marriage.

Paul Diamond QC claimed that her secondary school was breaching her human rights by preventing her from wearing the ring, while allowing Muslim and Sikh students to wear hijabs, turbans and karas. The school denied these claims, arguing that the purity ring is not an integral part of the Christian faith, and contravenes its uniform policy.

Hmm…

The tin-pot judge in this case needs educating, for nowhere in the Qur’an is there an injunction to wear a hijab, jilbab, or burkah, and neither did Guru Nanak demand that Sikhs wear turbans and karas. These are all cultural manifestations, and constitute personal expressions of faith adherence. If such interpretations are accepted by the school and the judge, it ought to be for Lydia Playfoot to decide how to express her commitment to a moral standard that is wholly in tune with her faith. Once again, it is one rule for minority faiths, but another for Christians. One wonders what the policy of the school would be if a married 16-year-old chose to wear a wedding ring.

But what annoys Cranmer even more is that the two recent cases brought by Muslims in challenge to their schools’ uniform policy were both awarded legal aid. The Playfoots now face a bill for £20,000. Cranmer feels like starting an appeal.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Boris Johnson - the people’s politician

Cranmer is delighted to hear that Boris Johnson MP has decided to enter the race to become Mayor of London. At last, the Conservative Party has found a high-profile, intelligent and personable politician who is also a Conservative supporter of considerable pedigree.

Cranmer has no idea what Mr Johnson’s policies are, but he (almost) invariably speaks and writes manifest common sense. And he has a rare gift for a politician – he is lovable. No matter what his faults and failings – and these have been broadcast far and wide - there is something profoundly warming about his personality. In an era where the medium is the message, Mr Johnson is a very portly medium indeed, through which the message of Conservatism may be amply expounded.

And everyone has heard of Boris. Like Diana, he has the aura of first-name familiarity about him; not such a one that may breed contempt, but one that endears people to him; one that makes people feel that they somehow know him. There is something cultic about him; to use the vernacular, he has mojo, he creates his own mystery which inevitably yields a loyal following. In that sense, Boris is the people’s politician, and God knows that modern politics desperately needs politicians with whom the electorate wants to engage; politicians who can lead and create disciples.

London is tired of Ken Livingstone’s manipulation, evasion, cunning and deceit. The antidote is a straightforward dose of honesty and commonsense. As far as Cranmer is concerned, no-one but Boris can rid us of the anti-Semitic appeaser of Islamism and promoter of all that is corrupt and rotten. Ken Livingstone has to go, and Boris is without doubt the man to excise from London that odious specimen of humanity.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Sanctity of Marriage

David Cameron is right to advocate that the tax and benefits system should be changed to provide incentives for couples to get, and stay, married. According to The Sunday Telegraph, marriage is certainly popular - in their a poll, 80 per cent of people believe it is ‘very important to me personally’, and most people think that it would be right for the Government to encourage marriage (57 per cent are in favour, 35 per cent against).

Marriage is an essential building block for the functioning of society. Throughout Scripture, family units, or ‘houses’ are seen as part of the basic building blocks of society. Marriage is an institution that provides stability for both clan and a nation; it is intended by God to be a place of nurture for children and a place of love and peace for members of a community, and for Christians it is the model used to explain the mystery of Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph 5:25-32). It is not, therefore, something to be tampered with lightly, nor re-defined casually.

In Genesis 2, the Lord says: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’ (v18). It continues: ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (v24). Although these verses do not purport to define marriage, they do describe its origin, and are therefore crucial for understanding the Bible’s teaching on marriage, which is both heterosexual and monogamous. This precludes all notions of homosexual marriage for both genders (Exod 22:19; Lev 18:22f cf Rom 1:26f). Some heterosexual unions are also prohibited (Lev 18:9-17; 20:11-21; Deut 22:30; 27:20-23), and bigamy, though evident in the Old Testament, is not ideal (Lev 18:18; Deut 17:17), being portrayed negatively (Gen 16:4ff; 21:10) or deemed problematic (Deut 21:15-17).

There are three principal purposes for marriage arising out of this: (i) the procreation of children; (ii) companionship, and (iii) sexual union. Marriage is a covenant before God, which is explicitly confirmed by Jesus when he states that marriage is that which ‘God has joined together’ (Mt 19:26). When Christ met the Samaritan woman and asked about her husband, he affirmed the truthfulness of her reply when she said she was unmarried (Jn 4:17b-18), thereby not recognising cohabitation as a marriage. Jesus refers to being ‘yoked together’ (Mt 19:6; Mk 10:9), meaning a profound union. The marriage covenant was designed by God to last until at least one of the spouses dies (Rom 7:2), though it could be severed by divorce.

Genesis 2:24 (cf Deut 24:4) contains the idea of the indissolubility of marriage, but exegesis of the terms ‘leave,’ ‘be united to,’ and ‘one flesh,’ is necessary to evaluate this. The word Hebrew term for ‘leave’ points to the establishment of a new unit in society. It is the word used in reference to religious apostasy (eg Deut 28:20; 31:16), and links with breaking the Covenant that Israel had with God (Deut 29:24). The word translated ‘cleave’ or ‘be united to’, in interpersonal relationships denotes the idea of commitment, loyalty, or close proximity. The crucial point of interpretation is contingent on the word translated ‘flesh’, which suggests that the first marriage was regarded as a kinship (‘flesh and blood’) relationship which supersedes all such blood relationships, even that of parent-child. It depicts the consequence of their bonding, which results in a new person. There is the element of full personal intercommunion of husband and wife at all levels of their lives.

In a postmodern world of moral relativism, the biblical ideal remains that marriage is an institution designed by God to form a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman. In today’s world there is a genuine concern for meaning and value in relationships, which is a concern for the quality and very soul of a relationship. Homosexuality and incest are simply perversions of the marriage covenant, not valid marriages, despite the recent actions of certain legislatures. Cohabitation, however, while traditionally viewed as fornication, may be viewed as a marriage insofar as there is an intention to meet the biblical criteria for marriage. In this context, ‘fornication’ may be perceived as the practice of casual sex; cohabitation can constitute a loving, stable relationship – indeed, some couples who are cohabiting may have a better ‘marriage’ relationship than many who have legal married status. It may therefore be termed an ‘embryonic marriage’, noting the only omission may be the lack of a formal ceremony and public recognition. Whether it ought to be recognised in law through the tax and benefits system is, however, quite a different matter. Yet Mr Cameron wants to recognise ‘gay marriage’, but not heterosexual cohabitation. This is profoundly flawed.

Scripture teaches that any sexual relationship makes a couple ‘one flesh’ (1Cor 16:6), with indications that the union is more than physical. Adultery forms a ‘one flesh’ relationship between two people who do not have a marriage covenant with one another, thus damaging the ‘one flesh’ relationship between the husband and wife. Genesis 2:24, and the implication of a ‘profound union’, suggest that when two people have sex, they become closely joined, helping to explain why extramarital and ‘casual’ sex is such an egregious sin, and ultimately destructive to society.

The Conservative Party is right to embrace marriage as the solution for addressing the problems of social decay. As Iain Duncan Smith has concluded, its demise contributes to high crime rates, low aspirations, low educational attainment and high dependency on the state. Michael Gove has Cranmer’s prayers as he battles for children, schools and families, not least because, as Professor Rowthorn writes: ‘children from broken homes generally do worse on every significant measure than those raised in stable families. They are more likely to leave school without qualifications, more likely to end up in prison, more likely to be poor, and more likely to raise children in broken homes themselves’.

And this is, by the way, a moral issue. It is fatuous to pretend otherwise, and deceitful to assert that it is not.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

In Krishna We Trust

This is what happened when Senator Harry Reid invited Rijah Zed, a Hindu priest, to say prayers (or transcendental meditations to the deity supreme) in the US Senate:



This is probably what we have to look forward to in Gordon Brown’s multi-faith Britain. His decision to loosen the ties of the Office of Prime Minister with the Church of England will lead inexorably to demands in Parliament for prayers, meditations, incantations and chants to a host of deities – why should any one be supreme? And why should the deists prevail? Why not have an atheist lead opening prayers? In an age of pluralism and relativism, one should be able to thank Jehovah, Allah, Waheguru, Vishnu, or the Tooth Fairy for everything he/she/it has bestowed. One can then equate a faith built upon a rock with myth built upon rock ‘n’ roll.

Yet it is within the innate humility of Christian understanding to give way and permit this sort of compromise…until an uncompromising, dogmatic, and immovable personality cult moves in under the same pretext, and takes root, and refuses to humbly give way and compromise further…

Friday, July 13, 2007

Conservatism and ‘Social Justice’

Cranmer holds the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith in high regard. The gravity of his concern for the vulnerable, poor and disenfranchised of society considerably outweighs his perceived shortcomings as leader of the Conservative Party. ‘Quiet’ men sometimes work better behind the scenes, and Mr Duncan Smith has busied himself in an admirable pursuit since he was unjustly and conspiratorially ejected from the leadership of his party.

The summary of his report on ‘Social Justice’ can be read here, or the whole document downloaded here. There is nothing doubting the man’s heart, or his motives, as they evidently stem from a Christian theological concern for those whom Scripture exhorts the believer to have compassion. Yet there is a philosophical tension. Conservatives may rightly talk of ‘natural justice’ – that is those rights which emanate from natural obligations, or ‘just dealing’, between people. These can be independently understood, and the consequent human actions individually owned. But ‘social justice’ implies that all wealth (and even all advantage) belongs to society, which somehow has to ensure a ‘just’ distribution.

Conservatives do not believe that one man’s intelligence or one woman’s beauty (and the gender of both of these nouns is interchangeable) is a cause of injustice: it is simply the way things naturally are, and is therefore a naturally just state of affairs. Is it not therefore consistently Conservative to insist that neither is it unjust that one person is born richer than another, or that one group of people holds one proportion of the national wealth, while another group holds a different proportion? The only injustice would be if these states of affairs were brought about through injustice.

For the advocate of ‘social justice’, it is ultimately unjust to distribute wealth unequally among people who are all equal in their right to claim a portion of it. This must apply to income, homes, utilities, and jobs – the ‘social’ absolutes. The problem for Conservative thinkers is that this perpetually succours the poor and casts down the rich. It is the statist, high-tax, corporatist, continental model of social justice, entrenched in the ‘Christian right’ traditions all over Europe, yet antithetical to the Anglo-Saxon model which is built upon a Protestant understanding of the responsibilities of the individual, and concerned with minimising the power of the state.

The adoption of the ethic of ‘social justice’ in the Conservative Party moves it towards a continental concept of conservatism. The problem, as has been long observed, is that it does not work. Social justice cannot eradicate those deep inequalities of skill, industry and talent which cause some to rise and others to fall. No matter how many policy documents politicians write, how many laws a government passes, or how many billions of pounds a treasury spends, those inequalities persist because they are, ultimately, completely natural.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Barroso: ‘the EU is an Empire’

It is official. In what was either the greatest gaffe of the 50-year-old European project, or simply a statement of fact of what everyone has suspected for rather a long time, the President of the EU Commission has declared that the European Union is an empire, and (according to the Daily Express) this empire will 'rule over Britain'. And if the EU is an empire, this Brussels bureaucrat must be the emperor, at least until the imminent ‘Reform Treaty’ bestows upon the Empire its first political emperor. President Barroso’s precise words:

(Hat-tip to EU Referendum for the graphic)
Sometimes I like to compare it to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empires. We have the dimension of Empire but there is a great difference. Empires were usually made with force with a centre imposing diktat, a will on the others. Now what we have is the first non-Imperial empire. We have 27 countries that fully decided to work together and to pool their sovereignty. I believe it is a great construction and we should be proud of it. At least, we in the Commission are proud of it.

Cranmer has believed this for some time. Much has been written on the eschatological need for a 'Last Days' empire (not that Cranmer necessarily agrees with any of it), and also on the parallels between the EU and former European empires, especially those of Charlemagne and the Hapsburgs. And noting that Reich translates straightforwardly as ‘empire’, it is conceivable that President Barroso is talking of the Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanicae, but simply doesn’t know it. But this is not the first time he has used the word. In previous speeches he has referred to ‘an empire of law’, and he has also previously referred to ‘a new and better European political order’ which must be used ‘to create a new and better global order’.

But it is the phrase ‘non-Imperial empire’ which Cranmer finds interesting. In saying that empires were usually made with force with a centre imposing diktat, Presdent Barroso seemingly ignores that the European empire is being created by this precise mechanism, albeit through smoke and mirrors. It may be an empire made without armed force, but it is certainly not being constructed with popular consent. Choosing to ignore the results of free, democratic referenda manifestly amounts to forcible imposition.

Mark Francois MP, the Conservative's shadow Europe minister, responded: ‘The British public will be surprised to hear that we are now part of an EU empire… anyone who thinks that we have been exaggerating in calling for a referendum on a revived constitution only has to look at what Mr Barroso has said to realise the scale of what is now being contemplated.’

It is not unreasonable to suggest that, in the absence of a referendum on this ‘Reform Treaty’, that dissent may ensue. We are already being told that it is a fait accompli, that there are no more negotiations to be had, and that member states should not request them. If this Napoleonic proclamation is not a diktat, what is?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Vatican: ‘Other Christian churches are wounded’

Cranmer had intended to post today on Iain Duncan Smith’s thoughts on ‘social justice’, and his identification of the causes of our broken society - family breakdown, severe indebtedness, addiction, educational failure and unemployment. His Grace, however, finds himself hijacked by theological terrorism. It transpires that His Holiness has not only been busy reviving Latin, restoring the Tridentine Rite, and singling out the Jews for evangelisation, but he is also winding back the clock to an assertion of Protestant heresy.

In 2000, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a document entitled Dominus Iesus which stated unequivocally that the Church of England ‘is not a church in the proper sense’. One might think, as Pope, that the man might be inclined to adopt a more conciliatory tone (as he is manifestly doing with Islam, and related issues like the admission of Turkey into the European Union), but no: under Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican is reiterating his statements of seven years ago, and insisting that Christian denominations outside Roman Catholicism are ‘not full churches of Jesus Christ’.

His Holiness is prepared to accept Orthodox churches as true churches, but suffering from a ‘wound’ (Lat. defectus) since they do not recognise papal primacy (forget the minor quibble of the filioque). But the ‘wound is still more profound’ in Protestant denominations. The document states: ‘Despite the fact that (Dominus Iesus) created no little distress…it is nevertheless difficult to see how the title of “Church” could possibly be attributed to them.’

This is a significant development. In 2000, the Church of England was simply not a proper church; now it is not a church at all. Unsurprisingly, Protestant leaders all over Europe find such statements ‘offensive’, and some have even observed that they 'will hurt inter-denominational dialogue’.

No kidding.

The document is about as conducive to good ecumenical relations as the declarations of the Rev Dr Ian Paisley that Rome is the Whore of Babylon and the Pope is the Antichrist. It refers to ‘ecclesial communities originating from the Reformation’ as containing ‘many elements of sanctification and truth’, but asserts that only Catholicism possesses all the elements to be Christ's Church fully. This is not bigotry, of course: it cannot be, because it is the truth. And this truth is made more palatable to heretics by the assurance that Rome ‘is not backtracking on ecumenical commitment’.

Indeed, not: it is simply restating its assertion that ecumenism is a one-way path to Rome. The only negotiations to be had are those that have a fore-ordained outcome on every article of faith and every teaching of Rome. For Protestants to engage in ecumenical dialogue is rather like attending a theological Alcoholics Anonymous: the first requirement is a public admission that you have a problem - a ‘wound’ (or ‘profound wound’) - and thereafter the path to healing, wholeness, and salvation becomes somewhat easier...

And what says the Church of England in response?

Oh, Cranmer forgot. The Archbishop of Canterbury is away on 'study leave'. While Archbishop Carey denounced Dominus Iesus as 'unacceptable', the official spokesman for Archbishop Williams says: 'This is a serious document, teaching on important ecclesiological matters and of significance to the churches' commitment to the full, visible unity to the one church of Jesus Christ.'

Well that alright then.

Protestant England has become an historical curiosity, surrounded by the competing seas of Islam and Roman Catholicism, about to be engulfed by one or both.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ofcom fines TV licence payers

Cranmer asks his communicants to forgive him this moan, which is not remotely religio-political (unless one considers issues of Mammon to be all-encompassing), but irks him sufficiently to merit a posting.

The BBC has been fined by Ofcom after the results of a Blue Peter competition were faked, and a child who happened to be visiting the studio was asked to pose as a caller.

The media watchdog criticised the BBC for ‘negligence’ and for ‘making a child complicit’ in the deception, and has fined the public service broadcaster the sum of £50,000.

The BBC said: ‘We regret that Ofcom found it necessary to impose a fine.’

But Cranmer is more than a little irritated that the fine is not in fact imposed upon the BBC but upon licence-fee payers. This fine is a de facto transfer of tax-payers’ money from the BBC to the Treasury: it may either be viewed as an additional tax upon every household with a television, or the impoverishing of the service that viewers can expect from the BBC.

If Cranmer were really small-minded, he might discover how many TV licences there are, and how much per household £50,000 represents. He might then withhold these sundry pence from his next instalment. The only thing preventing this course of action is the thought that the BBC would then spend more pounds of tax-payers’ money pursuing the outstanding pence.

Why does the Conservative Party indulge this preposterous, anachronistic tax?

Monday, July 09, 2007

And now... Euro-Islam

The tentacles of Brussels continue to extend their reach beyond the economic, social, and cultural, into the realms of the theological. According to EUObserver, Brussels is pooling ideas (‘pooling’…again…) ‘on how to tackle radical Islam and create a more tolerant "European" branch of the faith’.

EU home affairs commissioner Franco Frattini has declared that ‘one of the great religions of the world - Islam - is being abused to foster a new totalitarian ideology that challenges our way of life’.

What, pray, does Sgr Frattini know of the Qur’an, the Hadith, or Islamic theology? Muslims (that is those ‘in submission’) regard the most reliable Qur'anic commentary as being contained in the Qur'an itself: the Qur'an is explained by the Qur'an. The ways in which certain ayat clarify other ayat are regarded as being the most significant form of commentary. A second form of Qur'anic commentary is how Mohammed himself interpreted the Qur'an, and his comments on the Qur'an, as well as everything he alleged to have done or said, are recorded in the hadith collections. Yet even these schools of thought fracture into a plethora of other schools of interpretation; the process is complex, as is the case with all theology

So what qualifies Sgr Frattini to decide which of these schools should prevail? Upon what basis does he deny vast tranches of the Qur’an which incite violence, and promote those which talk of peace and co-existence? What does he know of history, hermeneutics, or textual criticism?

The role assumed by Sgr Frattini is rather like the EU ‘home affairs commissioner’ presuming to lecture the Pope on his interpretation of Scripture or Church tradition. Cranmer can’t quite see His Holiness taking theological lectures from anally-retentive or sexually incontinent politicians. Yet Sgr Frattini might as well inform the Vatican that the Commission is laying plans for the imposition of Lutheran theology across the EU. And all religious schools and religious leaders will be financed, run, and monitored by the State, and that state is the EU, to whom the Vatican will henceforth be subject .

Sgr Frattini is seeking to promote a ‘European Islam’, or ‘Islam de l'Europe’. He concedes ‘that this is quite difficult and ambitious, but the time has come to put on the table a political discussion to protect the large majority of Muslims living here peacefully who deplore and fight against radicalisation and the distortion of Islam for purposes of violence and hatred’.

The objective is to have Islam ‘fully and unambiguously respecting values and sanctity of life cherished in Europe…(including) everything mentioned in the Charter of Fundamental Rights’.

Hmm…

While Cranmer is in agreement that something needs to be done, and (of course) accords with the principle that theology should adapt to relate to culture, the main hurdle to Islamic integration emanates in the mosques. Only eight percent of imams preaching in British mosques were born in the UK, and only six percent of them speak English as a first language. While these imams are well-versed in the ‘traditional Islamic curriculum’, they are reported to ‘lack the skills to adapt to modern society’.

How can the EU possibly develop an effective policy to deal with this? Is this not an issue best dealt with according to the traditions and cultures of each individual nation state, under the principle of subsidiarity?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A strategy for the settling of doctrinal disputes

A proposal being placed before the General Synod that could change the nature of the Church of England dramatically. It is being asked to pass a resolution from the House of Bishops that hands a blank cheque to the archbishops in negotiations with the rest of the Anglican communion for a ‘covenant’.

The Church of England arose from the Elizabethan settlement of 1559, which settled half a century of disputes and became the first ‘broad church’, with governance that included bishops, priests and the laity. If the synod passes the motion unamended, the way will be open for bishops to agree a document without recourse to the clergy and the laity. This looks curiously like the papal form of governance which the Reformation abolished - a Curia, rule by the bishops. It will pave the way for the ‘covenant’ between provinces of the Anglican communion worldwide and, however widely drawn that is, some decision-making power will be ceded overseas, exporting some of its historic inheritance.

As previously reported, the Archbishop of Canterbury will be absent from the meeting.

It is a matter of history that the Church of England helped form the English national character. While some may question what any of this have to do with setting the downtrodden free, relieving oppression and suffering, or setting an example of being peaceful, it is a crucial vote for a solution to increasing doctrinal differences, especially over the ‘gay’ issue. How else may one achieve unity in doctrine, without a degree of papal authority?

UPDATE:

The Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd John Hind, proposed a motion committing the Synod to engaging "positively" with the Covenant.

An amendment from Tim Cox (Blackburn) sought a simpler declaration of communion only with provinces that were wholehearted about scripture, upheld the historic formularies, and believed that "sexual intercourse belongs solely within the lifelong commitment of a man and woman in marriage".

This was lost. But more support from the floor was forthcoming for an amendment from Justin Brett (Oxford) which sought to tone down "affirm its willingness to engage positively with" to "note", in case the Synod did not like the final result of the drafting.

There was another amendment, too, which would have required the Archbishops' Council's response to the consultation about the draft Covenant to be brought back in November or February for the Synod's approval. The Synod was warned that any text that had been approved by the Lambeth Conference was likely to be presented to it on the basis "Take it or leave it."

But after strong speeches against the Covenant, and expressions of doubt that it would achieve what it had set out to, the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, almost dared the Synod not to go along with it. It mattered to millions of Christians in a less fortunate position, he said; the Synod had voted "massively" in favour of the Covenant in 2005; no classical Anglican would have embraced the contemporary idea of inclusivity; and if the Synod voted against it, it would be undermining the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, also sought to reassure the Synod that the two Archbishops could be trusted, and it was not signing up to a "confessional document".

The chairman of the House of Laity, Dr Christina Baxter, advised that someone should bring a private member's motion about the Covenant which would go "straight to the top of the list" at the next group of sessions, and so ensure that a further submission could be made, without holding up the official response, which had been requested before the end of the year.

The amendments were lost, and Bishop Hind's motion was carried.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The ethnicity of immigration control

Cranmer takes no pleasure in reproducing this letter to The Daily Telegraph from Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, Conservative Defence and Security Spokesman. It was brought to his attention by a regular communicant, and is really quite alarming:

Sir - There are certainly very serious questions to be asked about the manning, mission and effectiveness of the Border and Immigration Agency of the Home Office, previously the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (Letters, July 5). It says its role is "securing our borders, enforcing our immigration laws and managing migration to the benefit of the UK". Its catastrophic failure to perform these functions correctly is plain for all to see.

When I said to a previous Home Secretary that the controls at our ports of entry were "beacons of political correctness", he replied that I had made a demeaning remark. I therefore asked the Home Office what proportion of its staff in the various immigration, identity and passport services were from ethnic minorities.

Given that ethnic minorities are estimated to form about 6.7 per cent of our total population of working age, I was alarmed to receive the reply that, of those staff whose ethnicity was recorded, 29 per cent of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, 30 per cent of the Immigration Service and 14 per cent of the Identity and Passport Service were from ethnic minorities.

While it is only right and proper that all law-abiding bona fide citizens, regardless of ethnicity, should have equal opportunities, the manning of our front-line immigration services is curiously disproportionate. It does not promote confidence in the agencies responsible for the control of our borders and therefore the security and integrity of our nation.


Hmm…

It is significant that these figures represent ‘those staff whose ethnicity was recorded’. How many are unrecorded? Why is the figure so disproportionate? Is there an agenda? Is it racist to enquire? Is it a thought-crime to believe there might be?

Perhaps only when Parliament is so disproportionately stocked with ethnic minority MPs, and the Qur’an, the Guru Granth Sahib, and the Laws of Manu are placed in the dispatch box to supplant the Bible, will questions be asked…
Newer›  ‹Older