Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blessed are the peacemakers

Former prime minister Tony Blair was apparently ‘visibly delighted’ when his old friend Bill Clinton, the former US president, introduced him at the launch of Mr Blair’s new Faith Foundation. Mr Clinton said: "I have learnt that there's not only life after politics; there's also good life if you find something you truly believe in. Tony’s found something he believes in."

That’s nice.

Mr Blair has promised to ‘spend the rest of my life’ uniting the world's religions.

Now this is no small undertaking, but Cranmer thinks it will be the rest of his life wasted.

While there is no doubt that faith could be a ‘civilising force in globalisation’, and bring people together 'to solve problems such as malaria and extreme poverty', unity is impossible when one is dealing with infallibles, absolutes, assertions of truth and competing conceptions of the good.

What is evil to one is good to another; what is right for one is wrong to another; what is tragedy for one is just karma to another; and what is terrorism to one is freedom fighting to another. While one side is beating swords into ploughshares, the other is stocking up on depleted uranium; while the lions are lying down with lambs, the kitchen is set for a ritual slaughter and the ovens are already set at 200 degrees.

Mr Blair concedes: "It is a massive undertaking, but how important is it? If all the good tunes are with the extremists... if they're the ones out there with the strong message and those of us who believe that religious faith is about peaceful co-existence are silent we've got a real problem on our hands," he said. “This isn't an incidental or second order issue, this is fundamental to how the world develops."

He believes faith has been hijacked by extremists – ‘from all religions’, he is most careful to say. Faith, he says, needs to be claimed back by those who believe in co-existence.

In short, Tony Blair believes that faith is the new battleground.

And on that matter Cranmer agrees with Mr Blair. He says: ‘Faith is part of our future’, as though this were some new revelation. But faith is part of our future because it is part of our past and part of our present. Faith is intrinsic to being human, which is possibly why the revelation may be new to Mr Blair. Faith is here to stay because the political consequences of religious adherence are inescapable.

Mr Blair said: "If you got churches and mosques and those of the Jewish faith working together to provide the bed nets that are necessary to eliminate malaria, what a fantastic thing that would be. That would show faith in action, it would show the importance of cooperation between faiths, and it would show what faith can do for progress."

For some reason, Mr Blair referred to Christians and Muslims by their buildings (he evidently means ‘church’ in that sense), but perhaps he momentarily forgot that Jews worship in synagogues. And what of the poor gurdwaras, mandirs and viharas?

Mr Blair is not being paid for his work as a Middle East messiah envoy for the ‘Quartet’ of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia. And so he maintains a lucrative consultancy posts with insurer Zurich and merchant bank JP Morgan, on top of a reported £5m deal for his Downing Street memoirs.

Having found that it is possible to serve both God and Mammon, perhaps Mr Blair has discovered the ultimate ‘Third Way’.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Academia’s ‘witch-hunt against the Jews’

Melanie Phillips is invariably erudite, incisive and right. Her exposition of the blatant anti-Semitism of the Universities and Colleges Union is precisely the sort of phobia which should have the BBC filling the airwaves and the newspapers filling column inches, and doubtless they would if it were a UCU agenda against Islam or Muslims. But when the body discusses whether universities should single out Israeli and Jewish scholars for discrimination, there is not a murmur.

And as Ms Phillips reiterates: ‘Yes, you read that correctly. The UCU is debating a motion which not only raises the spectre yet again of an academic boycott of Israel but demands of Jewish and Israeli academics that they explain their politics as a pre-condition to normal academic contact. The motion asks colleagues to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating... the testimonies will be used to promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions... Ariel College, an explicitly colonising institution in the West Bank, be investigated under the formal Greylisting Procedure.’

The implication is clear. If this motion is passed, a scholar resists condemnation of Israel ‘for the “occupation”, or practising “apartheid”, “genocide” or any of the other manufactured crimes laid at Israel’s door by the Palestinian/Islamist/neonazi/leftwing axis, they won’t be able to work’.

Their contracts shall depend on conformation to the received wisdom, to propagation of ‘approved’ views, and they shall be terminated if they persist in holding views which are considered abhorrent. How will they distinguish such individuals? Force them to wear yellow stars stitched to their clothing?

Ms Phillips asserts: ‘The views they are being bludgeoned into expressing as a condition of their employment are based on lies, distortion, propaganda, gross historical ignorance, blood libels and prejudice. And this in the universities, supposedly the custodians of free thought and inquiry in the service of dispassionate scholarship.’

It is, of course, only Israel and the Jews which are the targets of this discrimination, and the latter appear to be even if they are not Zionists. There was no motion to condemn Islamism, no motion to single out Muslim students who express support for odious individuals like Qaradawi, and no motion condemning Burma, China, Zimbabwe. And these ae the same Universities and Colleges which are receiving money from Saudis without question.

But this is proof, if any were needed, of the powers that hold sway over the further education system. One has to be grateful that the UCU does not speak on behalf of either all universities or all lecturers. As one respondent states: ‘The national UCU activists are far from representative of their own union, never mind UK academia as a whole! It's a fact of life however that those of us who wish the Union would stick to representing our interests, and avoid political campaigning of any kind, tend to prefer to spend our time doing our actual jobs instead of getting involved in the union’.

Cranmer awaits the flood of resignations from those members who oppose this offensive and illegal motion. And although he is loath to exalt Nobel as any kind of touchstone - especially after the Al Gore fiasco - he does wonder how Israel has managed to produce so many academically-inspirational Nobel laureates:

Robert Aumann, Germany, Economics, 2005
Aaron Ciechanover, Chemistry, 2004
Avram Hershko, Hungary, Chemistry, 2004
Daniel Kahneman, Economics, 2002
Yitzhak Rabin, Peace, 1994
Shimon Peres, Poland, Peace, 1994
Menachem Begin, Poland, now Belarus, Peace, 1978
Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Austria, Literature, 1966

And these stand alongside just a few from the rest of the Middle East in its entirety, namely Sadat and Arafat.

And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse...(Gen 12:3).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why isn't this man Archbishop of Canterbury?

The more one heard from the Bishop of Rochester, the more one is reminded that the Church of England is led by the deficient and Parliament breeds poodles. Sadly, for all his theological insight and sociological intuition, he manifests little political nous. If he really wished one day to lead the Church of England, he would be making friends and building bridges in order to attain the position from which he could effect policy. Notwithstanding this, this Daily Mail article is replete with so many gems, Cranmer reproduces it in its entirety:

The collapse of Christianity has wrecked British society, a leading Church of England bishop declared yesterday.

It has destroyed family life and left the country defenceless against the rise of radical Islam in a moral and spiritual vacuum.

In a lacerating attack on liberal values, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, said the country was mired in a doctrine of 'endless self-indulgence' that had brought an explosion in public violence and binge-drinking.

In a blow to Gordon Brown, he mocked the 'scramblings and scratchings' of politicians who try to cast new British values such as respect and tolerance.

The Pakistani-born bishop dated the downfall of Christianity from the 'social and sexual revolution' of the 1960s.

He said Church leaders had capitulated to Marxist revolutionary thinking and quoted an academic who blames the loss of 'faith and piety among women' for the steep decline in Christian worship.

Dr Nazir-Ali said the ' newfangled and insecurely founded' doctrine of multiculturalism has left immigrant communities 'segregated, living parallel lives'.

Christian values of human dignity, equality and freedom could be lost as the way is left open for the advance of brands of Islam that do not respect Western values.

The Bishopric of Rochester is one of the ten most powerful positions in the Church of England.

Dr Nazir-Ali's attack on the decline of Christianity appears to put him in the opposite corner to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and many of his fellow bishops.

But he holds some views in common with the Church's other widely-heard and popular prelate, Ugandan-born Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.

Over the past six months, Dr Nazir-Ali has made a number of criticisms of Islam and its influence.

Among them have been charges about the spread of no-go areas for non-Muslims and worries over the impact of new mosques.

Last weekend he was one of just three bishops who backed a move in the Church's parliament, the General Synod, to encourage the conversion of Muslims to Christianity.

His latest attack once again criticises Dr Williams's backing for sharia law, saying that 'recognising its jurisdiction in public law is fraught with difficulties, precisely as it arises from a different set of assumptions than the tradition of law here'.

Dr Nazir-Ali detailed his arguments in an article in the newly-launched political magazine Standpoint.

The bishop, himself an immigrant from Pakistan in the mid-1980s, admitted that he might be thought the least qualified person to discuss British identity. But he quoted Kipling: 'What should they know of England who only England know?'

The bishop said 'something momentous' had happened in the 1960s. He quoted historians who point to a cultural revolution in which women ceased to uphold or pass on the Christian faith and to the role of Marxist revolutionaries.

Dr Nazir-Ali pointed with approval to a finding that 'instead of resisting this phenomenon, liberal theologians and church leaders all but capitulated. He said: 'It has created the moral and spiritual vacuum in which we now find ourselves.' In the place of Christianity there was nothing 'except perhaps endless self-indulgence'.

The bishop said the consequences were 'the destruction of the family because of the alleged parity of different forms of life together, the loss of a father figure, especially for boys, because the role of fathers is deemed otiose, the abuse of substances (including alcohol), the loss of respect for the person leading to horrendous and mindless attacks, the increasing communications gap between generations and social classes - the list is very long.'

Another result, he said, was that immigrants had been welcomed, not on the basis of Britain's Christian heritage, to which they would be welcome to contribute, but by the 'newfangled and insecurely-founded doctrine of multiculturalism'.

The bishop warned that views not founded on Christianity would not produce the same values. 'Instead of Christian virtues of humility, service and sacrifice, there may be honour, piety, the saving of face, etc'.

He questioned what resources were available for an ideological battle against radical Islamism, saying 'the scramblings and scratchings around of politicians for values which would provide ammunition' were hardly adequate.

Convert who crusaded against the extremists

Born into a Roman Catholic family in Pakistan, the young Michael Nazir-Ali converted to Anglicanism at the age of 20.

As a young man, he suffered rough treatment of the kind regularly handed out to Christians in a country where failing to follow the official religion can sometimes end in murder.

He moved to Cambridge to study theology and then returned as a priest to Pakistan before being brought to London in the 1980s to serve as an assistant to the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie.

He is one of the bishops who has been called on by the Prince of Wales to give advice on Islam.

However, Dr Nazir-Ali does not share the prince's enthusiasm for Islamic values. He has warned Charles to give up his hope of being 'defender of faiths' because of the incompatibility of different beliefs.

Dr Nazir-Ali has accused Muslims of promoting double standards by looking for both 'victimhood and domination'; he has called for powers for officialdom to remove veils from Muslim women for security reasons; and he has warned repeatedly over the dangers of extremism.

In particular he has called on Islamic leaders to allow Muslims to abandon their beliefs and adopt other religions.

Dr Nazir-Ali has spoken up for an estimated 3,000 Britons under threat of retaliation for giving up their faith and he has condemned Islamic states that maintain the death penalty for apostasy.

His outspokenness has put him in the vanguard of opposition to hardline Islamism and made him one of the highest-placed enemies of the gay rights movement.

He angered the Archbishop of Canterbury by threatening to boycott this year's Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops from around the world.

He has criticised civil partnerships and opposed the extension of IVF treatment to single women and lesbians.

Dr Nazir-Ali has much in common with the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu. Unlike him, however, he does not have a populist touch.

This may have contributed to his failure to win the post of Archbishop of Canterbury, for which he was once considered a leading candidate.

The 58-year-old bishop has now remained in Rochester for nearly 14 years.

EU bans opposition as President Barroso bullies the Irish

The Daily Telegraph is sounding an alarm, but there are few who are taking much notice. Certainly, the BBC has not breathed a word, and will doubtless not do so until they can link it with division in the Conservative Party and portray them as a party unfit for government. But Bruno Waterfield’s article should have all libertarians quaking in their boots, for Brussels is intent on eradicating those groups who dare to oppose the great EU project, and is doing so in a devious manner.

The EU is simply attempting to change the rules which allow MEPs to form political groupings. Current rules permit 20 MEPs from a fifth of the EU’s member states to form a group, but Richard Corbett, a Labour MEP, is leading the charge to increase this threshold to 30 MEPs from a quarter of the EU’s member states.

The move would eradicate UKIP’s pan-European ‘Independence and Democracy’ grouping, and, of course, the largest and most pro-EU groups ‘would tighten their grip on the Parliament’s political agenda and keep control of lavish funding’. It will also scupper the Conservative Party's plans to divorce from the EPP, which was foundational to David Cameron's bid to become leader of the Party. While the separation has been kicked into the long grass of 2009, this battle will now re-surface on the run-up to the 2010 general election. The timing could not be worse.

The elimination of opposition is being proposed in the name of efficiency: “It would prevent single issue politicians from being given undue support from the public purse,” said Mr Corbett. “We want to avoid the formation of a fragmented Parliament, deeply divided into many small groups and unable to work effectively.”

This is curious negation of the precise reasoning behind proportional representation.

And conveniently, Mr Corbett’s proposals will also give the President of the Parliament sweeping powers to approve or reject parliamentary questions, such that any questions which dare to question the legitimacy of the whole edifice may simply be set aside. This is not so far removed from Soviet Communist tactics, where power was maintained not by the banning of elections, but by the outlawing of ‘fascist’ and ‘counter-revolutionary’ parties.

And one may see the practical outworking of this in Ireland, as campaigns are underway to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. José Manuel Barroso, the Commission President, has warned Irish voters that they will ‘pay’ if they reject the Treaty. He said: “If there was a ‘No’ in Ireland or in another country, it would have a very negative effect for the EU. We will all pay a price for it, Ireland included, if this is not done in a proper way.”

The proper way?

Ah, he means if the Irish do not give the right answer.

As seen in the referenda held in Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Ireland, any nation which dare oppose the infallible, fore-ordained agenda is set aside temporarily while the juggernaut continues. This is overt totalitarianism; they are no longer concerned with political union by stealth.

While the bullying of Ireland's voters is unsurprising, President Barroso’s comments are indicative of the arrogant ideology to which member states are now subject. The EU is, in his view, an ‘Empire' of which he he is presently the Emperor. It is his duty therefore to ensure that the EU’s agenda is fulfilled, whatever the cost.

Cranmer is, however, puzzled by the desperate measures, for if the Irish vote ‘no’ in a few weeks, the result will simply be set aside, and the referendum held again and again until the Irish yield the divinely-ordained ‘right’ result.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On this day in 1533...

His Grace opened a can of worms by declaring the marriage of England's King Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn to be politically and theologically valid.

He didn't have an awful lot of choice, but has no regrets.

I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel

Cranmer has been aware of the aggressive feminisation agenda within the Church for a very long time. He has debated with feminist theologians, occasionally heard in church God referred to a ‘she’, and read bowdlerised scriptures in which all references to anything divinely masculine are specifically neutered. After millennia of patriarchy, the matriarchs are on the warpath, and a thousand Hattie Jacques are queuing up to be made bishops.

Grateful that Cranmer’s Prayer Book is unscathed, it is concerning to hear that the feminisation agenda has now infiltrated the prayer books of Judaism. It seems that YHWH is no longer a ‘He’, according to the Movement for Reform Judaism which has produced a ‘gender-equal’ prayer book.

The latest edition of ‘Forms of Prayer’ mentions in the Amidah not only the ‘God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ but also the ‘God of Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel’. All masculine terms like ‘Father’, ‘King’ or ‘Lord’ are expunged, being replaced by gender-neutral terms like ‘Eternal One’, ‘Creator’ or ‘Ancestor’. Their reasoning for such a development is explained on their website:

Reform Judaism is living Judaism. It is a religious philosophy rooted in nearly four millennia of Jewish tradition, whilst actively engaged with modern life and thought. This means both an uncompromising assertion of eternal truths and values and an open, positive attitude to new insights and changing circumstances. It is a living, evolving faith that Jews of today and tomorrow can live by.

Reform executive director Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand said: "It is clear that faith is still regarded as hugely important and relevant in the modern world. Nevertheless faith movements still have a long way to go to bring themselves into line with modern attitudes on gender. Faith is still seen as fundamentally discriminatory and still almost exclusively promotes male images of God, with which only a minority any longer identifies. The launch of our new prayer book can play an important role in challenging such thinking and re-engaging those who feel cut off by current attitudes."

No, Rabbi, your innovation alienates just as much as it re-engages. Since God is not a created being, he is not bound by male or female, but he is possessing of personhood – he has a mind, a will, an intellect, and emotions. Anthropomorphism demands gender appropriation for he is manifestly not an ‘it’. He is Lord and King, omnipotent and omniscient, alpha and omega. To neuter God is to accord with the programmatic elimination of the importance of the father, the need for masculinity, the necessity of testosterone-charged maleness.

Christianity is also a living faith. It is a religious philosophy rooted in two millennia of Christian tradition, whilst actively engaged with modern life and thought. This means both an uncompromising assertion of eternal truths and values and an open, positive attitude to new insights and changing circumstances. It is a living, evolving faith that Christians of today and tomorrow can live by.

But it is bound by tradition and certain historic factors: Jesus was male, he chose 12 male disciples, and, while the New Testament speaks abundantly of equality between the genders, there is also acknowledgement of the manifest differences. A woman is not, as Plato might say, an ‘inferior man’, but a creature of complementary attributes.

Yet Reform Judaism believes that ‘all religion is provisional and that continuing revelation is an awesome reality’.

Who discerns the veracity of this revelation? Who declares infallibly a new doctrine or eternal truth?

Cranmer awaits the declaration of their prophets that Yeshua is, after all, their Messiah.

Unless they are waiting for an hermaphrodite.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lord Winston: ‘lesbians make better parents’

As the media shifts its focus away from the depravities of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, and decides on its next ‘uproar du jour’ to which it will direct the attentions of the undiscerning masses, Cranmer has been sent an insightful morsel by his loyal communicant Ultramontane Grumpy Old Catholic, to whom His Grace is profoundly grateful.

The issue is concerned with the rearing of children in the absence of a father figure, and the protagonist is the pathologically-possessed New Labour peer Professor Lord Winston.

Cranmer has considered his pontifications before, and, while respecting his eminent scientific learning, finds his moral worldview repugnant. The problem is that the professor asserts the latter with all the absolute certitude of the former, and his charismatic media presence provides him with an influential pulpit from which he may expound his dogma.

Consider a recent Radio 4 broadcast ‘The Embryo Wars’ in which Lord Winston claims (14 min into the programme) that a study in Cambridge showed that children brought up by lesbian parents were better parented and better adjusted than those brought up by heterosexual parents.

What is the sample size for this eminent piece of research? How many children have been reared by lesbians? While Cranmer has no doubt that the number is increasing, and will even moreso after the HFE Bill is on the statute books, this piece of research must be so profoundly flawed that it is unscientific of the eminent scientist to quote it as in any sense authoritative.

It took decades for scientists to reach conclusions about the adverse effects of smoking tobacco or cannabis, and on the matter of homosexual parenting there is simply insufficient data to give Lord Winston’s assertion any credibility at all. Not-So-New Labour is simply treating children as guinea pigs and is content to experiment on the nation's most vulnerable.

But if one wishes to be generous to Lord Winston and entertain his reasoning, there is a study from 2003 by the Centre for Law and Social Policy which indicated that children under 18 who were reared by lesbian parents displayed no significant differences in behaviour from those who were raised by heterosexual divorcees.

Although the research has evident limitations, the findings are consistent: children raised by same-sex parents are no more likely to exhibit poor outcomes than children raised by divorced heterosexual parents. Since many children raised by gay or lesbian parents have witnessed and endured the separation of their parents, researchers have considered the most appropriate comparison group to be children of heterosexual divorced parents. In terms of educational attainment, children of gay or lesbian parents are indistinguishable from their counterparts raised in heterosexual divorced families, and the same applies to their social, emotional and behavioural development, and also their attitudes towards teenage pregnancy and their employability.

Professor Susan Golombok, who was cited by Lord Winston, apparently addresses many gay and lesbian fora, and lectures at City University. Her editorial in the BMJ in 2007contains findings consistent with those above, but she concludes:

A limitation of the existing body of research is that only small volunteer or convenience samples have been studied, and thus mothers whose children are experiencing difficulties may be under-represented. Nevertheless, a substantial body of evidence indicates that children raised by lesbian mothers do not differ from other children in key aspects of psychological development.

None of this, of course, shows that children brought up by lesbian parents are better adjusted than those brought up in the good old natural way – by a mother and a father who are married. Indeed, research shows that children achieve better and are much better adjusted when a father figure is around.

Lord Winston is an staunch advocate of ‘women’s rights’, and this extends to overriding their natural body clocks and being able to have children when they want, with or without a partner. His vision is one of a ‘one-stop shop’ where successful single women or loving lesbian partners can come for their in-vitro baby. He foresees a time soon when science will be able to produce eggs from stem cells. This has already been done with mice, and the next tests are to be on sperm. We then have the wonderful prospect of children created by two men, and, the ultimate in narcissism, a child created from the cells of a single person.

The debate then turned to ‘saviour siblings’ - babies created for the express purpose of providing tissue to save a brother or a sister.

Ann Widdicombe said that she was extremely concerned about this concept. She and others had sought safeguards to require the child’s consent to donate tissue, which was refused. She had sought a limit on the amount that could be plundered, which was refused. In this she was supported by Lord Winston who agreed that the child, when grown up, could have imposed on it a continuing responsibility toward their sick brother or sister.

Fr James Hanvey, Director of the Heythrop institute for Religion, Ethics and Public Life, rightly asks where all this is leading, and where it will stop. He observes that once we remove the absolute respect for the human person - no matter how much legislative control is put in place - we erode the deep sense of respect for a person at the beginning of its life. If we choose to treat a human being as a commodity, what is there to stop us creating a whole group of persons - a slave class - which can be used as donors for whatever purpose? Is this civilisation?

And Baroness Deech enters towards the end of the programme, and was asked what she thought the scientific future was going to be. She said essentially that as a woman who has borne children, her figure is not what she would like it to be. But embryos can now be kept alive for 14 days until the statutory requirement to kill them. And also babies can survive outside the womb at say 23 weeks. So her conclusion was that this gap of around 21 weeks needed to be bridged, and it was down to science to achieve this by developing a tank with nutrients in which the child could develop and the mother could collect the baby at end of term, figure intact.

While Cranmer wonders what manner of ‘mother’ this would be who is content to watch her child develop next to the goldfish, it is clear that we are moving towards a society which not only negates the need for a father, but also diminishes motherhood to the simple provision of an ovum.

Has science finally discovered a way of implementing Plato’s vision that all human reproduction be state controlled? Having abolished the need for a father, are we but a few steps away from needing a mother’s womb? Would the withdrawal of ante-natal health provision encourage all citizens to make use of government-sponsored incubators for the production of the next generation?

If Parliament continues along its present course, this is indeed the likely destination, with unknown and unknowable consequences. And the likes of Dr Evan Harris, Lord Winston and Baroness Deech will go down in history as the legislative architects, and they shall be lauded and honoured:

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!

Such people indeed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why Christians should think thrice before voting Labour

When is a free vote not a free vote?

When it is an issue of conscience and Harriet Harman leads a whipping like the one witnessed on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Whipping is usually fully disclosed, and why should it not be in a free and fair democracy? But to pretend that members have a free vote on an ethical matter, and to inform the public that issues of conscience will be respected, only then to force members down a particular lobby with threats for those who dare to disobey, is mendacious, manipulative and immoral.

And ultimately it is for the Christian in a democracy to be discerning and to vote for the lesser evil. Cranmer is humbly asking his readers and communicants to consider that New Labour is becoming increasingly antithetical towards Christian morality, and has abdicated its responsibility to care for the poor, the needy, and the unborn.

According to The Mail on Sunday, Harriet Harman was the driving force to prevent any reduction in the time limit for abortions. She allegedly organised a group of women MPs who ‘browbeat and bullied’ their colleagues into voting to keep the 24-week limit:

‘Technically, once the MPs turned up, they could vote either way. In reality, sources say, they were greeted by Ms Harman’s group, who pressured them to vote against the move, proposed by Tory MP Nadine Dorries. According to one account, women Labour MPs formed a “human corridor” to channel their colleagues into the ‘No’ lobby. One Labour MP claimed to have heard one of Ms Harman’s team shout: “Vote against us and the sisterhood will never let you forget it”.’

It is reported that Ms Harman was assisted by fellow pro-abortion Labour MPs Barbara Follett, Joan Ruddock and Emily Thornberry. A former minister said: ‘Harriet organised the whole thing like a full-scale whipping operation. Everywhere you went there was someone saying, “Have you voted against Dorries?” If you said “No” you got an earful. Some male Labour MPs felt very intimidated. Afterwards, the women were crowing about how successful they had been.’

There is a steadily increasing intolerance of religious or ethical considerations, and especially to those of immense concern to Christians. The principal justification given to sustaining the present abortion limit, to the production of animal-human hybrids, and to the creation of ‘fatherless’ children, was an appeal to 'science' as if it were the only source of reason. The triumph of utilitarianism has relegated religious considerations to the peripheries of sanity, and the only rational context in which debate can now take place is that which reduces ethical considerations to matters of economics or science.

New Labour has cheapened the value of life and negated the primacy of conscience. They have misrepresented science in order to perpetuate their programme of social engineering, and they are intent on destroying the carefully-laid foundations of tolerance and respect which have set this nation apart. They are so intent on legislating for tolerance towards every intolerant minority that they are legislating for intolerance of the tolerant Christian majority.

When Christians dare to be convicted, they are portrayed as bigots. When they articulate a view with which others may disagree, they are dogmatic. When they fall short of perfection, they are pilloried and cast as hypocrites. When they defend the unborn, they are unenlightened. When they oppose animal-human embryos, they are anti-science. When they express concern over the fatherless, they are homophobic. When they speak up for the poor, they are wishy-washy liberals. When they defend faith-based education, they are intolerant. When they seek to uphold marriage, they are ‘right wing’ reactionaries.

It is becoming increasingly evident that Christians should think not just twice but thrice before casting a vote for Labour at the next general election. All those Roman Catholics who have historically supported the Socialist cause must be encouraged to at least consider conversion to the Conservative cause - if only to see a modest reduction in the abortion limit.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The politics of conversion

Politicians not infrequently ‘cross the floor’, or, to put it another way, convert to a political worldview to which they have dedicated a not inconsiderable part of their life vehemently opposing. Whether that conversion is genuine, or is simply a fickle profession in order to be associated with the wining side and on the ascendancy, only God can judge. But such conversions carry with them the reality of persecution from one’s former brotherhood, which, one presumes, must at least be offset by the lauding and praise one receives from one’s new fraternity.

Quentin Davies is the most recent disaffected Tory who was blinded by the light of New Labour, but there have been many others. And some confused souls have even mistaken the aura around the Liberal Democrats to be the light of truth, only to discover the reality that all manner of political demons may appear as angels of light. And even now there is more joy in the Conservative Party over one sinner who repents of standing for New Labour than there is in the thousands of loyal workers who have stayed with their party through its darkest hours.

Yet while crossing the floor represents a betrayal of one’s political colleagues and of one’s constituents (who more frequently than not vote along party lines rather than for individual candidates), the nation at large scarcely bats an eyelid. If one were to ask anyone in the street if they knew who Quentin Davis was, he would barely register. Even fewer would be aware that our ‘greatest Briton’, Sir Winston Churchill, was not averse to switching sides when he deemed it expedient to do so.

Politics demands a missionary approach, for the only way of implementing one’s policies is to win converts in the hope that on judgement day one has more brothers and sisters than one’s opponents. Conversion in politics is not deemed to be offensive; indeed, it is the very life-blood of a vibrant democracy to which freedom of expression and freedom of conscience are intrinsic. The freedom to convert and to seek converts is an undoubted manifestation and consequence of true liberty. The extent to which a society permits its citizens to change their minds and to persuade others to their new-found cause is a true measure of its commitment to progressive enlightenment.

So it is bemusing, if not profoundly irritating, that a ‘traditionalist Anglican’ is coming under ‘intense pressure from bishops’ to withdraw his Synod motion that the Church should ‘proclaim Christianity as the only route to ultimate salvation’. Since such a call is manifestly not ‘inclusive’, it does not accord with the zeitgeist.

Paul Eddy, a lay member of the General Synod, has secured sufficient support for his motion to be debated, but is being denounced by sundry bishops within and some Muslims without, but his assertion remains that ‘the Church can no longer avoid hard questions about its beliefs’.

He is concerned by the reality of ‘no-go areas’ for the gospel, to which the Bishop of Rochester has also referred, and says the church has ‘lost its nerve’ and was ‘not doing what the Bible says’. “Both Christianity and Islam are missionary faiths," he said. "For years, we have sent missionaries throughout the whole world, but when we have the privilege of people of all nations on our doorstep, we have a responsibility as the state church to share the gospel of Jesus Christ."

"Most Muslims that I've talked to say: 'I really wish that Christians would stop watering down their faith and expecting us to do the same’. Until we start really saying what we really believe in our faith, there will be no respect. Actually, to present to a Muslim that we believe Jesus is the only way to God, they'll say, 'We know that'. They will expect us - if we're true Christians - to try to evangelise them, in the same way they will expect us, if they're true Muslims, to adopt their faith."

And the impeccably neutral BBC News religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says: ‘Mr Eddy's stance is likely to alienate many Muslims at a highly-sensitive time in the relationship between Islam and Christianity in the UK’. He added: ‘The motion is a sign of the conservative evangelical wing of the Church flexing its muscles to oppose what it warns is a watering down of Christian values in deference especially to Muslims’.

Cranmer admires Mr Eddy's conviction and wishes him well in his mission. If the BBC is the principal opponent and arch-persecutor, it probably indicates that Mr Eddy is on the right side. There is no hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury will raise his voice in support of Mr Eddy, but Cranmer looks forward to the floods of encouragement this poor trainee Anglican priest shall receive from those Roman Catholic journalists who are obsessed with conversion, or from those prelates who accuse the Church of England of perpetual and unacceptable compromise, or from His Holiness, who is so admirably uncompromising about the immutable truths that he is not remotely bothered by any politically-correct, relativist, liberal agenda.

His Grace shall not hold his breath.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Dalai Lama, the Archbishop and the Prime Minister

There is a lot of chatter circulating about the visit of the Dalai Lama to London and the refusal of the Prime Minister to meet him at his official residence, 10 Downing Street. Instead, the meeting took place at the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Palace, apparently to placate the Chinese, but to the manifest irritation of Tibet activists. One Tsering Passang wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister: ‘Many of us feel that your decision not to receive His Holiness at your official residence is perhaps sending a wrong signal - a sign of bowing to pressure from other forces.’

Yet Cranmer is actually delighted by the organisation surrounding this visit because it is symbolic of the continuing foundations of Britain’s constitutional settlement. The Dalai Lama is spiritual and political leader of Tibetan Buddhists, and it was utterly unimportant to him where the meeting took place. No.10 Downing Street has no constitutional significance whatsoever: it is simply the Prime Minister’s office, for which the terms ‘Downing Street’ and ‘No. 10 have become synonymous. Over the centuries, the ‘house at the back’ has been occupied by sundry royals, peers and politicians, and it has been considered ‘a small, unimpressive, mediocre building’. Prime ministers have frequently chosen not live there, and it was not until Benjamin Disraeli that it attained ‘official residence’ status. But this has frequently been a pretence: prime ministers as recent as Harold Wilson actually lived elsewhere while conspiring with the media to give the impression of habitation. It has been subject to so much demolition and restructuring that it is literally a political façade; the recognisable grey brick and black door are all that predate the 1950s.

Lambeth Palace, however, has a continuous history going back to the 12th century. Its architecture is evocative, speaking of High-Church Anglican continuity with the Old Faith, and it has been witness to some of the most significant events of the nation’s history, including the trial of John Wycliffe for ‘heresy’. For the Prime Minister to insist on meeting the Dalai Lama here reinforces the religio-political fusion that exists at the heart of the British Constitution: that government consists of the spiritual and the temporal.

China may be concerned that a meeting with the Dalai Lama at No.10 might appear to lend him political legitimacy, but a meeting at Lambeth Palace has actually reinforced both his spiritual significance and his political status. It is, in any case, not without precedent, for there the Dalai Lama met Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, back in 1981. And while the office of prime minister may be traced back almost three centuries, there have been archbishops of Canterbury for more than 1400 years. And while the Prime Minister is charged with the governance of the United Kingdom, the Archbishop of Canterbury has a global role as head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Far from it being somehow demeaning, a meeting at Lambeth Palace actually represents a much greater honour than any previously bestowed upon him.

Of course, the Chinese may be as ignorant of this as many Anglicans are of the significance of establishment. But it is entirely possible to consider something to be a 'good thing' or a ‘bad thing’ without having more than the haziest idea of what it actually entails.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Gordon Brown - Britain’s worst prime minister

There have been some bad prime ministers, there have been some ineffectual ones, and there have been some manipulative and deceptive ones, but Gordon Brown must superlatively be the worst. And those who installed him cannot say they were not warned. David Miliband, John Hutton, Frank Field and many others told us quite clearly what we might expect if Gordon Brown became prime minister, and doubtless there are many this morning who are now wishing they had heeded these words of warning.

Mr Hutton was right.

But Mr Miliband was mistaken. Not only did it not take six months for the realisation to dawn, but Cranmer does not hear clamour for the return of Mr Blair. Instead, there is a demand for emphatic change.

Mr Brown has been Prime Minister for just a year, but he is manifestly tired, devoid of ideas, and has failed to connect with the people. He has no charisma, and is tediously dull to listen to. In fact, Cranmer can’t be bothered. Every time Mr Brown speaks, his monotonous grunting grates with the ears, for there is no music in his soul, no levity to his spirit, and even Mammon has deserted him.

And if the resounding Conservative victory in Crewe is anything to go by, even traditional Labour supporters are no longer prepared to give him the benefit of any doubt. Their by-election campaign was unremittingly negative, class-based, crude and patronising, and establishes beyond doubt that ‘anti-Tory’ feeling can no longer be relied upon to persuade people to vote for Labour. Of course, a by-election result cannot be taken as an indication of a general election performance, but it is the mood that matters. The Conservative Party is no longer the ‘nasty party’ from which ‘middle England’ flees, but it has at last once again become the party of the majority. It represents hope, optimism, renewal and change. The Conservative Party has at last rediscovered the means of bridging the gap between itself and the electorate.

And now we face two years of ineffectual government as Labour enters an apocalyptic period of turmoil and self-destruction. More than 100 Labour MPs are waking up to the reality that they are certain to lose their seats at the next general election. And there will be a breakdown in discipline as the New Labour edifice crumbles and members assert that the party is no longer sufficiently left wing. And there will be more nationalisations and strikes, and the spectre of the late 70s, which Tony Blair did so much to dispel, shall return.

And Gordon Brown’s decision to not call an election a year ago will go down in history as one of the greatest political blunders ever, for he most certainly would have won, and the Conservative Party would now be navel-gazing, contemplating another change of leader, and debating once again whether neo-Thatcherism was the cure for Majorism.

Instead, 2010 now looks like the dawn of a new age.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The innate moral superiority of Conservatism

While the Conservative Party looks forward to the hypnotic ecstasy of winning its first by-election victory for a quarter of a century, Cranmer is really rather down and depressed. Black dog days may be rare, but when they come they are weighted with lead. The day seems like a week, and the immutable God appears to have mutated his immanence. And as Cranmer reflects on the fickle ephemeral world of politics, he wonders how many abortions have been performed today. And who cares? Who is still asking? If the media is not interested, the nation goes dormant and politicians move on, like flies, hopping and flitting to the next media-determined issue. And that, today, is to be found in Crewe & Nantwich. Tomorrow it shall be something else.

And yet victory in Crewe seems almost divinely dished out. Analysis of the voting patterns between the parties on the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill establishes empirically that when it comes to the sanctity of human life, the overwhelming majority of Conservatives tend towards biblical orthodoxy and seek to limit evil whether or not they are believers, while most Socialists don’t seem to give a damn. True Conservatives truly seek to conserve the nation’s moral framework (the likes of the odious John Bercow are not truly Conservative), while Socialists seek to erode the foundations with endless sub-clauses, qualifications and concealed amendments.

While there are many who view an merging 'Christian Right' in the UK with disdainful concern, it may be observed that there is more to fear from the Christian Left.

Cranmer is profoundly grateful to his loyal communicant Ultramontane Grumpy Old Catholic for the research he did on this, if only to cheer himself up. He summarises:

• 537 MPs voted out of 636 that were eligible to vote (the remainder of the 646 were 5 Sinn Fein, 1 speaker, 3 deputies and 1 vacant [Crewe and Nantwich])

• The percentage of MPs voting in the 3 main parties were Nu-Lab 87.5%, Con 87.5% and LibDem 73%

• The percentage of Conservatives present who voted to reduce the legal limit for abortion to 22 weeks was 86%, with 14% voting to retain the status quo

• The percentage of New Labour present who voted to reduce the legal limit for abortion to 22 weeks was 20%, with 80% voting to retain the status quo

• The percentage of Liberal Democrats present who voted to reduce the legal limit for abortion to 22 weeks was 37%, with 63% voting to retain the status quo

The figures are stark: what 80 per cent of Conservatives seek to support in the moral realm, 80 per cent of Socialists oppose. This has everything to do with Labour's selection procedure, since Cranmer hears that support for abortion is a prerequisite for being approved as a candidate. The party is engineering society by limiting the conscience of the collective: it is pure Marxism.

ConservativeHome notes further research by the BBC for Radio 4's World at One programme:

• 92% of Conservative MPs backed Iain Duncan Smith's call for fatherhood to be recognised when decisions about fertility treatment are being made. 82% of Labour MPs were opposed to such a recognition.

They posit that ‘if Conservatives win the next general election and if new MPs vote in similar proportion to the way their existing parliamentary parties vote then it is very likely that a tougher regime for abortion will be introduced.’

But ‘likelihood’ is a slippery little sucker. Parties in power tend to have very different agendas to those they profess whilst in opposition.

But such a bleak perspective on the day of a glorious by-election victory is simply a by-product of Cranmer’s black dog.

Pray for him.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brown’s ‘moral vision’ to awaken the ‘conscience of the world’

It is ironic that the week during which Gordon Brown has legislated for animal/hybrid embryos, saviour siblings, 24-week abortion, and the eradication of fatherhood, that he should have prefaced this perverse amoral agenda with a speech in which he outlined his ‘moral vision’.

It was delivered to the Church of Scotland General Assembly, and he talked much of his Scottish Presbyterian upbringing in a Kirkcaldy parish manse, and assured the assembled faithful that he was still anchored firmly to his father’s ministry. The speech was made exactly 20 years after Margaret Thatcher gave her "Sermon on the Mound" at the same venue, in which she expounded the theological basis for her free-market thinking.

But the Prime Minister’s speech was nowhere near as politically honest, as spiritually insightful or as theologically well-informed as that given by Mrs Thatcher. Consider:

And amidst all the challenges and headlines of recent months I have learned what really matters: that, for me, a life is best measured not by what office or title you hold but by what difference you can make by seeking to do what you judge the right thing…

So why did Gordon Brown spend most of the past decade lusting for prime ministerial office?

I am not here to presume a distinctive interpretation to scripture. Instead I stand before you today to affirm my personal commitment to the Church's enduring vision of the good society - the good society of compassion and justice that today is needed more than ever, at home in our own country and abroad in our world.

His ‘vision of the good’ presupposes a most distinctive interpretation of Scripture. It is one in which the ‘collectivism’ and ‘common ownership’ of Christian Socialism have been replaced by ‘community’ and ‘tolerance’, but his distinctive interpretation of Scripture is Socialist to the core.

As a son and now a father I believe in the Parable of the Talents my father taught me:
• that everyone has a talent,
• everyone should have the chance to develop that talent,
• and everyone should be challenged to use that talent and given the best chance to bridge that gap between what they are and what they have it in themselves to become.

It is just a pity that his father never told him that a ‘talent’ is money: it is, in fact, a small fortune – about 3,000 shekels. And manifestly not everyone possesses a talent, but, as he observes, those who do ‘have the chance to develop’ it – ie, make it grow. The parable is in fact concerned with extracting interest payments from the poor, social justice and financial responsibility.

And we find that from the timeless wisdom of all the great religions - from which billions across the world derive daily inspiration - there is a consistent ethical core that propels us to act: encapsulated in the golden rule that informs not just Christianity and Judaism but also Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam - showing that we are not moral strangers but there is a shared moral sense common to us all:
• that we are our brother's keeper;
• that we should do unto others as we would have them do to us;
• the enduring summons to justice that echoes down the ages ---- our belief deep down that when some are poor all of us are impoverished, when even a few are not free none of us can be fully free, when others are weakened in spirit and hope no one can boast our society is truly strong.

While it is undoubted true the world’s ‘great religions’ have much in common, there is, in fact, no Golden Rule in Islam at all. He appears to have read the same bowdlerised Penguin edition of the Qur’an as Mr & Mrs Blair.

And what I want to argue is that the joining of these two forces - the information revolution and the human urge to co-operate for justice - makes possible for the first time in history something we have only dreamt about: the creation of a truly global society. A global society where people anywhere and everywhere can discover their shared values, communicate with each other and do not need to meet or live next door to each other to join together with people in other countries in a single moral universe to bring about change. And the truth is that linked across oceans and miles, a chorus of countless voices - inspired by the strength of shared values - can now touch and move the conscience of the world.

And here we have his vision for a ‘New World Order’ – a global society with a global government concerned with global issues and founded on ‘a single moral universe’. And in accordance with the new global spirituality, Mr Brown desires:

conscience linked to conscience - people with a shared moral sense and a capacity to communicate and organize; and the power that comes from calling, networking, marching for change, millions can now be moved to action - as with Make Poverty History - against the great injustices of poverty, disease and environmental degradation.

He wants to

turn moral values into common action and shared vision into a global reality: to 'undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free'.

And he continues with his messianic vision when he observes:

Acting together, the first generation in the history of mankind to abolish illiteracy and give every child the right to education; acting together, the first generation to eradicate tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, malaria, on the way to eradicating HIV/Aids. And to honour the dream of the scriptures: that justice will roll like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.

One almost expects him to roll up his scroll and announce that today this scripture is fulfilled in our hearing.

Rather like the recent speech given by his immediate predecessor Mr Blair (in Westminster Cathedral), who also spoke of his desire to 'awaken the conscience of the world', there were no references to Jesus, no mention of God, and scant references to Scripture.

The speech by Mrs Thatcher in 1988 was replete with all three.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Abortion - in all its uncensored barbarity

Cranmer asked his communicants to send him footage of abortion procedures, and promised to publicise the reality of this depraved barbarity. He thanks those who have contacted him with these appalling videos.

WARNING: Do not click on these if you may be offended, disturbed, or wish to remain ignorant of the mechanism by which we are murdering millions of babies every single year.

You may need a YouTube registered account to view this, which is in Spanish, but the words are irrelevant. Having been sliced and diced, the baby comes out in identifiable pieces, the head last.

And this is link to footage from the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, in which the delicate, perfectly-formed limbs of dozens of murdered babies are displayed swimming in blood:

"Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD." Leviticus 18:21

May God forgive us, for we know what we do.

Abortion – do we need 24 weeks? 22 weeks? 20 weeks? 16 weeks?

O, reason the need! Our unborn children
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.

With a slight adaptation to the words of King Lear, this is one of the principal issues upon which our elected representatives shall occupy themselves over the next few days; the others being animal/human hybrids, ‘saviour siblings’, and the necessity of a father, all conveniently packaged in the utterly monstrous and profoundly immoral Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

The media persists in persecuting 'Catholics’ for their opposition to this Bill, with no mention at all of the Anglicans or those of other faiths, or those of no faith, or even of those 75 eminent scientists who have profound reservations about the Government’s motives and claims.

They might even consider the words of a current practising abortionist, Dr Vincent Argent, who is a consultant gynaecologist and a former acting medical director of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

Dr Argent is not remotely content with Nadine Dorries’ 20-week amendment. In The Daily Telegraph he argues for 16, yet even this is considerably more than other European nations, where the limits are:

France 12, Germany 12, Italy 12, Belgium 12, Bulgaria 12, Denmark 12, Czech Republic 12, Greece 12, Hungary 12, Luxembourg 12, the Netherlands 13, Poland 12, Slovakia 12 and Sweden, the most ‘liberal’, 18.

Yet the UK persists with child sacrifice up to 24 weeks.

Dr Argent was brought up a Roman Catholic, but says: ‘any religious beliefs I ever had have left me’. His opinion on late abortions is not formed by ‘religious bigotry’, but by ‘more than 30 years' experience in abortion services for the NHS and private clinics’ during which time he saw what was involved, and the ‘flimsy grounds on which some women sought them’, and thereafter he ‘could not stomach the idea of providing such a "service".’

The doctor notes that people do not realise just how distressing late abortions can be: ‘The procedure remains the last taboo. While heart and brain surgery are regularly shown on television, the reality of a late abortion has never been seen on British screens’.

Cranmer shall offer his blog to any such distressing footage if anyone wishes to send it to him. And he shall change platform if blogspot decide to censor it. If any doctors or nurses have an example of an aborted baby gasping for air as it is left to die on the side of a sink, or of a baby being sliced and carved in the mother’s womb so that it may be extracted limb by limb, or of a ‘partial birth’ abortion in which the baby’s head is crushed before it can take its first breath, please email Cranmer at the address above.

And for all those MPs who read Cranmer every Monday (the day on which the server logs on around 50 times), before you cast your votes today please just take a few minutes to read this harrowing account from The Spectator’s Coffee House:

Every so often a letter arrives in a columnist's mailbag that throws a hand grenade right into the middle of a long-held view. That happened to me last week following my article in which I urged caution before lowering the time limit on abortion from 24 to 20 weeks. The letter came from a Registered General Nurse who works on a gynaecological ward that regularly deals with late terminations. She apologised for the "unpleasant and upsetting aspects" of her letter but felt her points needed to be said. I agree, and felt it also warranted a wider audience.

Apparently, at 20 weeks, tablets can be given to kill the foetus prior to expulsion. But at 24 weeks it is sufficiently strong to survive the treatment and many are born with signs of life. "It is all too easy for people to picture a clump of cells or mush. People don't want to picture perfectly-formed miniature babies and I don't blame them, I was once the same," says Kay. "But having cut the umbilical cord on one who survived, then had to watch him gasp for breath for ten minutes on the side of a sink before he died, that sight will haunt me for ever."

The reason given for that particular termination was that the mother's current boyfriend had a toddler son who might get jealous of a new baby. It took them 21 weeks to come to that conclusion. Kay adds: "I know of two nurses who went off work with stress as a result of their experience with late terminations. I suffered horrendous nightmares and guilt for months. The guilt comes from the fact that you as a nurse cut the umbilical cord and, as dramatic as it sounds, we felt like murderers."

Kay doesn't believe in hounding or criminalising women who have to make this extremely tough decision owing to severe disability. Her misgivings are reserved solely for those who use termination as a form of contraception. Women who, up until last week, I hoped were few and far between. But, according to Kay, these terminations far outstrip those carried out because of fetal abnormality or genuine emotional distress. She says: "There are girls who come back five or six times demanding terminations and they get them. How can someone coming for their fifth termination be allowed to keep saying it is due to emotional distress? I should imagine in ten years' time the emotional distress of being allowed to have five terminations is going to take its toll. What is going on?"

Members of Parliament, in the name of Christ, take heed of such testimonies and stop this slaughter. If you have no time for religious opinion, then listen to scientific reason and the democratic majority, and call a halt to this evil infanticide.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday sport – the Sabbath was made for man

Cranmer has been alerted to a debate in the Scottish Parliament on a Sabbath issue unfolding on the Outer Hebrides. It is not quite worthy of a Chariots of Fire treatment, but certainly an increasingly rare witness by a group of Christians intent on challenging society’s inexorable erosion of Sunday’s special status.

From the Jubilee Centre blog it appears that a girls' football team from Back, near Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, reached their national final which is due to be played in Edinburgh on Sunday 25th May. But a number of parents have withdrawn their children, citing ‘religious observance on the isles’.

This has caused Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan, to assert that ‘sports should be open to all, regardless of race or religion’, and so he has called on the organisers ‘to avert a situation in which a team in the final would be disqualified simply because of the religious traditions of the families from which they come’.

And Dr John Hayward, the author of the blog, concludes ‘the Western Isles MSP (is) correct to defend the right of his constituents who choose to enjoy their Sundays at church, with immediate family and relatives, for the needy, and for personal rest and relaxation’.

As much as Cranmer’s heart is with the good doctor, and as much as he is a great admirer of Eric Liddell (and indeed of the remarkable film ‘Chariots of Fire’), and as much as his spirit is in sympathy with the well-meaning parents from Back, he feels compelled to state quite unequivocally that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. These are young children who have worked hard to reach the finals, and it seems somewhat mean-spirited to assert a legalistic observance of a Sabbath which, after all, only transmuted to a Sunday after the conversion of the Emperor Constantine when worship of the Son supplanted that of the sun. In any case, the Sabbath stipulations were concerned with labour: one can hardly equate playing football with labour, since none of these children earn their living by it, and if children are not permitted to play on the Sabbath, one had better hide the lego.

And Alasdair Allan MSP is opening a veritable can of worms by demanding that sport be accessible to all ‘regardless of race or religion’. It would be of little consequence in a mono-faith culture in which there is broad consensus of a Sabbath day, but he is demanding in a legislative chamber that sporting bodies ensure that their fixtures are ‘inclusive’. This could potentially halt all games played on Sundays (for the Christians), but also calls into question those held on Saturdays (for the Jews) and those on Fridays (for the Muslims). And since there is no agreed governmental definition of ‘religion’, Cranmer foresees demands to recognise the appointed Sabbath day of the Jedi Knight fraternity, whatever day that be.

The decision to play football on the Sabbath must remain a matter for the individual conscience, and even (for these children) one exercised by their parents, but in a multi-faith context subject to EU supremacy and breathed over by notions of anti-discrimination and individual ‘human rights’, it can no longer be a matter for a legislation. Unless, that is, one is prepared to accept that entire sporting tournaments must be organised around the observance sensitivities of every religious minority.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

‘Scientific bigots’ oppose the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

Cranmer does not read The Tablet for all manner of obvious reasons, but a communicant has drawn his attention to an article which warns of the unreliability of the of claims made for the research benefits of human-animal hybrid embryos, which is undoubtedly one of the most repugnant elements in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

This Bill is presently making its inexorable way onto the statute books, with the support of many of those Roman Catholics who had featured in the media for their strident opposition, except for Ruth Kelly, who absented herself from the Chamber when the vote was taken. Courage of conviction was never one of her fortes. It is a good job she is not contending against Robert Mugabe, in whose regime people of real conviction are suffering appalling persecution.

The article, ‘Beware false promises’, explains how the public have been duped by both government and scientists over the supposed benefits of embryonic stem cell research and specifically the creation of human/animal hybrids. We are told by scientists and politicians that research using human-animal hybrids ‘is vital to produce cures for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases’. The Bill ‘has the potential to either help the development of new treatments, or (if blocked) set us back decades’ with ‘a real risk that life-saving treatments could be lost’.

And Prime Minister Brown himself has caught something of this miracle cure as he assures us that this Bill will lead to treatments which ‘can save and improve the lives of thousands and over time millions of people’. Indeed, he considers the Bill a 'moral endeavour'.

The Tablet continues:

Dazzled by the promises, the public stands by in awe of the science. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority allows everything: it has thus far not ultimately rejected a single embryo-research-related application. Pro-embryo-research scientists have a ready mouthpiece in politicians and journalists beguiled by the claims. How could anyone oppose these miraculous cures? What we have seen in the determined efforts of some of the bill's more politically motivated protagonists is a confusion of the issues and a classic sleight of hand - in two separate ways. Both need exposing if people of conscience are to form honestly informed views.

The first is tacitly to allow the exciting advances in adult stem-cell treatments to illustrate the far more speculative therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells; to use the former to justify the latter. Thus Gordon Brown: "With adult stem cells already being used as treatments for conditions including leukaemia, severe combined immunodeficiency, and heart disease, scientists are already close to the breakthroughs that will allow embryonic stem cells to be used to treat a much wider range of conditions. Medical researchers now believe that stem-cell therapy has the potential to change dramatically the treatment of many other human afflictions: including not only Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's but perhaps also cancer, spinal-cord injuries and muscle damage."

Another example was in last Saturday's edition of The Times, a 12-page supplement (sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and - hardly by coincidence - appearing 48 hours before the debate in Parliament), relentlessly trumpeting stem-cell therapies and research with heart-warming stories of stem-cell cures and exciting reports of scientific progress.

Yet quietly submerged was the fact that every one of the stories concerning patients was about adult stem cells; and every report concerning embryonic stem cells was an experimental or animal study, or one speculating on their possible future potential. Not a single patient has been treated, even in trials, with embryonic stem cells: it would be too dangerous.

Medically, these heavily camouflaged truths are hardly surprising. The facts speak for themselves. Embryonic stem cells have an innate and invariable propensity to form tumours. They have genetic and chromosomal instabilities and abnormalities. Donor-derived cells carry the serious double hazards of cross-infection (prion diseases, for example) and tissue incompatibility (rejection). It is impossible to envisage their use in patients in the foreseeable future. Three months ago the highly reputable New England Journal of Medicine - previously a stout defender of cloning and embryonic stem-cell research - lamented: "Perhaps, not surprisingly, the technical difficulties and ethical complexities of this approach [cloned human embryonic stem cells] were always likely to render it impractical."

Conversely, this week has seen yet another positive clinical trial of adult stem cells (controlling damaging immune reactions after tissue transplants). The relative accessibility of adult (say, bone marrow) cells, their known safety, and the ability to use patients' own cells (avoiding rejection and cross-infection) all help explain why successful clinical trials in diseases as diverse as myocardial infarction, diabetes, limb ischaemia, stress incontinence and blindness from corneal disease have already been completed.

But there is a deeper biological aspect to adult stem cells' advantage as therapies. Our scientific approach to regenerative medicine has changed markedly in the last few years. The basic properties of embryonic stem cells - to generate limitless numbers of cells, and to turn into any kind of specialised cell - were considered clearly advantageous only when we thought of cell therapy as simply the replacement of lost cells. In fact, this simplistic notion applies in very few clinical circumstances. Tissue repair is infinitely more complex than this. Expecting implanted stem-cell-derived neurons, for example, to cure Alzheimer's disease would be a little like packing a few cogs and wheels and springs into the back of a broken clock and waiting for it to start working again.

Adult stem cells, present in most if not all specialised organs, have evolved as cells for repair: that is their purpose, and they successfully achieve this in many ways. But all this is barely relevant to the new bill. For here lies the second sleight of hand. The debate has, falsely, been turned into a referendum on all embryonic stem-cell research. What is proposed is actually "only" the licensing of various forms of mixed animal-human embryos as possible new sources of stem cells. But all the justifications for experiments using cybrids (embryos that are largely human but contain a minute quantity of animal material) are based on the falsehood that they are vital for developing embryonic stem-cell-based cures for dreadful diseases as argued by Lord Patel and Gordon Brown.

A broader perspective quickly reveals this as pure spin. The Daily Telegraph's Roger Highfield (generally supportive of embryo research) has forcefully pointed out that cell biologists who understand the complexity of proposed cybrid embryos are profoundly sceptical that they could ever prove remotely informative about human disease.

As James Sherley, from the Program in Regenerative Biology and Cancer, Boston, has said: "Huge volumes of ... basic cellular and molecular biology must be ignored to justify [cybrid] research. Not a single new experiment is necessary to know with certainty that human-animal cloning will not provide faithful models for human-human cloning."

I strongly suspect that it is this false equation - defeat of the bill represents a defeat for all embryo research - that has dog-whistled the British scientific establishment in support of the bill. In truth, few serious embryonic stem-cell scientists will speak in support of cybrid embryos specifically on the basis of their intrinsic potential for therapeutic research; most (obviously) will speak in favour of embryo research in general. (Although even among these, a proportion defends the bill more on the principle that scientists should not have limits set on their work than on the specifics of embryonic stem-cell science.)

And the suggestion that there is "no alternative" to cybrids is not even close to the truth. Rather, clinical scientists around the world have been extraordinarily excited by the emergence in the last year of a new technique for producing so-called "inducible pluripotent stem cells" (IPSCs). Certain genes are artificially activated to make adult cells "de-differentiate", or turn their clock back. IPSCs are virtually identical to embryonic stem cells; and this is a far, far easier technique than human cloning (let alone cybrid cloning). And involves no embryos. IPSCs have already successfully treated mouse disease models, and there are reports that IPSCs have been made from patients with various diseases.

In other words, this approach has quickly and clearly overtaken the cybrid idea. And IPSCs are 100 per cent human. Scientists all over the world are turning to this approach; even British stem-cell scientists say it spells the end of human-embryo research. Nowhere else is the rather bizarre alternative of making cybrids - let alone hybrids - generating any serious interest.
Yet, when three Catholic Cabinet members stood up for their right to vote according to their conscience, there was a near-stampede of panicking scientists, journalists and politicians, railing against the Church. Why the flap? Surely there is little chance of the bill being defeated. Or is there?

The HFE bill is not a referendum on embryonic stem-cell research. Cybrid embryos are a small part of the bill - but a minuscule branch of stem-cell research; most likely a cul-de-sac of slight interest to the scientifically curious, but clinically irrelevant. The alternatives are considered by the overwhelming consensus to be superior. Defeating this part of the bill will have zero impact on the development of stem-cell therapies - and represent a triumph for common sense and for moral responsibility.

And Cranmer’s communicant asks: ‘Why don’t we find articles such as these in the mainstream press (and in other media)?’

Ah, but we do: here in The Times, and here in The Daily Telegraph. These are eloquent letters to which no fewer than 75 eminent scientists and professors are signatories. And these are not learned in random areas of expertise, but are all ‘actively involved in stem-cell research and regenerative medicine’. His Grace has not heard from 75 scientists in support of this Bill; simply from the media-savvy Professor Lord Winston who is routinely wheeled out by Labour whenever their plans are in need of a veneer of scientific credibility.

These eminent scientists insist that there are no miracle cures in the HFE Bill, and they talk of ‘false optimism’ and ‘unrealistic claims’ for unproven avenues of research. They state unequivocally that ‘there is no demonstrable scientific or medical case for insisting on creating, without any clear scientific precedent, a wide spectrum of human-non-human hybrid entities or “human admixed embryos”’. And so they question the ‘scientific validity of proposals to create such embryonic combinations currently before the UK Parliament’.

Referring to a committee of experts which considered the issue of chimeras, Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, has stated that: ‘on the question of full-blown hybrids being created between animal gametes and human gametes, there was a degree of repugnance, even among scientists on the committee… and it was felt - and I think is still felt - that this would be something where there was no clear scientific benefit’.

And the scientists and professors concluded that ‘these proposals have no justification and threaten seriously to undermine public confidence in legitimate forms of research’.

When people of faith speak out against this Bill, they are termed ‘religious bigots’. Cranmer has never heard the term ‘scientific bigot’, but these bold 75 must so be.

Cranmer shall be deep in prayer this week, for this evil Bill needs to be defeated, and the battle must first be won in the heavenlies.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ken Livingstone was ‘hit by Jewish rows’

Only a fool would insists that there is absolutely no correlation between religion and politics, and only a foolish politician in a democracy would purposely ignore or caricature a particular ethno-religious group to the extent that an entire constituency became alienated or offended by their words or actions.

But this is precisely what Ken Livingstone did to London’s Jews, and outgoing deputy mayor Nicky Gavron has acknowledged that ‘the Qaradawi and Finegold incidents had cost Ken Livingstone Jewish votes’. In Barnet and Camden — the constituency with the highest Jewish population — his vote dropped from 37.7 per cent in 2004 to 35.4 per cent.

Ms Gavron is herself Jewish – indeed, she was the only Jew on the London Assembly – and so one wonders why she did not urge Mr Livingstone to apologise a lot earlier than he did for comparing Jewish journalist Oliver Finegold to a concentration-camp guard. He would never have dared to compare a Muslim journalist to Chemical Ali or one of Saddam’s murderous republican guard, and so one can only conclude he was rather more concerned with courting the Muslim vote that the Jewish one.

Yet one also has to wonder where Ms Gavron was when in 2005 Mr Livingstone welcomed the radical Islamic cleric Sheikh Al Yusuf Qaradawi, who apparently advocates the murder of homosexuals and Israeli civilians and the beating-up of women. She was completely silent at the time, but now admits: ‘It was very damaging in relation to the Jewish vote… it did cause offence.’

It most certainly did, and not only to Jews, for the views of Sheikh Al Yusuf Qaradawi are offensive to reasonable people of all faiths. Indeed, there emerged a rainbow coalition of gays, lesbians, feminists, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, secularists and democrats, all ranged against Mayor Livingstone, but all he could do was apologise to the Sheikh for the ‘outbreak of xenophobia and hysteria’ and their ‘underlying ignorance of Islam’.

Ms Gavron’s numerous omissions in her duty to advise Mayor Livingstone lend credence to the assertion that London is best rid of them both, for had Mr Livingstone won a third term, she would undoubtedly have continued as his deputy. And she had been considering implementing ‘a green plan for London Jewry’. Neville Sassienie, chair of the Board of Deputies social-issues action group, said: ‘We were discussing co-operation over a scheme for greening London Jewry and beginning to work with the Greater London Authority’s environmental people. We very much hope it will continue under the new mayor.’

Cranmer rather hopes rather emphatically that it will not. He could not believe that Mayor Boris would wish to pander to any particular ethnic or faith group in such a fashion, but will instead treat all Londoners quite simply as Londoners.

What would the reaction be to ‘greening London’s Muslims’ or ‘greening London’s Sikhs’? Such a focus is not only offensive, patronising and alienating, but it suggests a degree of ethical deficiency on the part of the specified group.

Or how about the deliciously alliterative ‘greening London’s gays’?

But then perhaps green isn’t their colour.

‘Greening London’s Jewry’ is as divisive as anything in a Qaradawi rant, and London’s Jewry were evidently right to support Boris Johnson.

And so were London’s Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhist, Atheists and Jedi Knights, who can all rest asured that they shall be treated equally and respectfully under the new mayoralty.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MPs: Godlessness is ‘making us miserable’

Considering the view of Tony Blair that politicians who ‘do God’ are ‘nutters’, it is a brave group of MPs who dare to issue a report which concludes that Britons are unhappy not because they are materially poor but because they are in spiritual poverty. The Daily Telegraph continues:

A report by a cross-party group of Christian MPs says the country is wallowing in misery despite increasing wealth and emphasis on happiness in schools.

Their study states: "One impetus behind this project was our sense that there is a strong feeling of disaffection among the inhabitants of these islands. It seemed to us that our national sense of wellbeing is at a low ebb; people are wanting something more out of life.

"Given all the advances of recent years, we seek to understand why a sense of human wellbeing – happiness if you like – is not more widespread."

They claim society lacks a sense of well-being because of a loss of faith in God and religion.
They point to the large number of self-help books on happiness available in bookshops, and research which claims people are no happier than 50 years ago despite increased personal wealth.

The authors claim people are pursuing money at the expense of relationships, the environment and respect for each other.

The report continues: "Our solutions do not involve yet more law or increased taxes, but rather a call to re-examine the decisions taken in every sector of society in the light of crucial life-changing principles."

They say all companies and MPs should consider whether any proposed decision will improve relationships in people's families and communities, and whether it is socially and globally responsible.

The authors claim everyone's wellbeing would improve if Christian values were taken more seriously in society.

Gary Streeter, a Conservative MP and a member of the working party, said: "I think many policymakers sense these things, but don't know what to do about it.

"The faith communities have a great opportunity to lead here, but only if they stop carping and being against everything and start to be more positive. It is as much a message to the faith communities as other opinion formers."

But Cranmer is shamed by the ‘political correctness’ and multi-faith-pussy-footing-around that this report appears to promulgate. There is no ‘loss of faith in God and religion’ in the UK; indeed, according to the last census and the rising numbers of those attending mosques, gurdwaras and mandirs, religion is thriving. And these religions would deem that they all practice ‘Christian values’, as would many non-believers. And so the report calls for leadership from ‘the faith communities’ who must ‘stop carping and being against everything’.

Well, Mr Streeter, your view of faith communities is somewhat limited by your own experience of them, and that cannot be very great. If this ‘carping’ and ‘being against everything’ is supposed to refer to campaigns likes those of prominent Roman Catholic clerics against human/animal hybrids, or of Nadine Dorries against abortion, you might like to consider the scriptural injunctions to contend for the faith, and contention is what the faith demands, for we are not concerned with our popularity in the world, but with the approval of God.

And this God is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, with whom the Son is consubstantial, co-eternal and indivisible. And the report omitted to mention that the religion which is being lost is the Christian religion, and the God who is set aside is the Christian God, and the only holy book which is impugned is the Bible, and the only fellowship of believers who are treated with contempt is the Church.

And Cranmer thinks this to be worthy indeed of more than a little carping.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Turkey and Pork

As Her Majesty the Queen lays a wreath at at the tomb of Kemal Attaturk, the founder of modern ‘secular’ Turkey, she could be forgiven for failing to notice that there is something of a constitutional crisis going on.

The Turkish constitution separates religion from party politics in order to preserve democracy. But Prime Minister Erdoğan has abused this separation, evidenced primarily in the erosion of the distinction between religious and secular public education. He has also embarked on a programme of obligatory retirement of thousands of secular judges - which amounts to those who dared to question his interpretation of the constitution - and replaced them with AKP apparatchiks. He also has instituted an interview process - controlled by party loyalists - designed to evaluate government technocrats on the basis of religiosity rather than merit. Turkish Air employees, for example, have even been questioned on their belief in the Qur’an.

Prime Minister Erdoğan also displays unprecedented (in Turkey) hostility towards the press. He has sued dozens of journalists and editors, and has confiscated whole newspapers - such as Sabah, the national daily - which he deemed too critical or independent, and transferred their control to political allies. Journalists such as Vatan's Can Ataklı and Reha Muhtar, television commentator Nihat Genç, Sky Turk's Serdar Akinan, and Kanal Türk's Tuncay Özkan are now under fire either for their own criticism or, in the case of the television announcers, for their guests' criticism of the ruling party.

Prime Minister Erdoğan has treated courts, both international and domestic, with disdain. After the European Court of Human Rights decided against permitting headscarves in Turkish universities, he declared that ‘only ulama (Islamic religious scholars) could’ issue such a judgment. In several instances, Erdoğan has refused to uphold the Supreme Court's decisions when it ruled against the AKP's confiscation of political opponents' property. In a moment reminiscent of Henry II, a follower gunned down a justice after the prime minister launched a fusillade against the Court.

If all this were deemed insufficient evidence of a distinct agenda, it is reported that the nation’s pork farmers and butchers are being singled out for special treatment, all in the name of EU harmonisation.

Eating pork, which is of course forbidden in Islam, became very popular in secular high society. But ‘religious dictates have begun creeping into their lives since a government led by devout Muslims took power’. Turkey's pork industry is now ‘on the brink of extinction’ as Christians ‘have long since left or been forced out’.

Butchers are being prevented from slaughtering pigs by the Agriculture Ministry, which is simply refusing to renew abattoir licences because they ‘do not meet strict new regulations’. And curiously, it is only the slaughter houses that deal with pork which are failing: those that deal with beef, chicken or lamb are passing with flying colours.

And one butcher confides that ‘none of us dares speak out’ because ‘it's all about Islam’.

He says: ‘Most people are more religious these days. They don't want to eat pork, and they don't let others produce it either.’ And another reveals: ‘The government doesn't announce out loud that it has banned the pig farms, but at the end of the day, that's what's happened here. They're trying to send a message to their religious constituents.’

Ironically, this is all ‘to bring Turkey up to European standards’ of Enlightenment.

And the affirmation of Her Majesty is just the sort of high-level and prestigious support Prime Minister Erdoğan has sought for his quest to join the EU.

Cranmer hopes they enjoy their state banquet. Doubtless pork chops shall not be on the menu.
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