Friday, October 31, 2008

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill – Commons vote breakdown

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill passed its Third and final Reading in the House of Commons on 22nd October. MPs approved it by 355 votes to 129. The Bill then passed to the Lords and thence for Royal Assent.

And so it came to pass that on the eighth day Parliament created animal-human hybrids, so-called ‘saviour siblings’, and fatherless IVF children, because God had shown himself deficient.

The voting patterns were:

(Courtesy of The Public Whip )

It is worth noting that:

Just under 70% of conservative MPs turned out to vote as opposed to 82.2% of Labour. It is worth asking why the Conservative turnout was so low for such an important Bill.

Only 16 Government MPs voted against the Bill – just 5.6% of those who turned out. Prominent Labour MPs who voted against the Bill were Jim Dobbin, Frank Field and Ruth Kelly, who had resigned from the Cabinet a few weeks prior to the vote ‘to spend more time with her family’.

Of the 49 Conservatives who voted with the Government, 25 were front bench MPs including David Cameron, George Osborne and Oliver Letwin.

The majority of Liberal Democrats voted with the Government, with just over one third voting against. Their turnout was 73%. Prominent Lib-Dems who voted against were Vince Cable, Alan Beith and Charles Kennedy.

All the Northern Ireland MPs who turned up (DUP, SDLP) voted against the Bill, though the UUP's sole MP, Lady Hermon, appears to have purposely absented herself (again). Notably, two thirds of the SNP also opposed the Bill.

A small cross-party group of MPs were planning to hijack the Bill to introduce a series of amendments to the Abortion Act, which, if passed, would have meant abortion on request up to 24 weeks; nurse abortion; GP surgery abortion with ‘completion’ at home, and extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. There was even an amendment proposing prison sentences of up to two years for pro-life pregnancy crisis counsellors found guilty of ‘misleading advertising’.

However, the Government succeeded in scheduling the discussion of amendments so that there was not enough time to discuss abortion-related issues. Harriet Harman and her cohorts were concerned that this would be a ‘bridge too far’ for pro-life Labour MPs and that they might create enough mischief to jeopardise the Bill altogether.

This means that all attempts to liberalise the abortion law have failed - for the time being.

Ms Harman has, however, promised to make parliamentary time available to introduce new measures to bring the 1967 law ‘up to date’.

Cranmer is sure this will not occur this side of a general election, for the Labour Party sorely needs to persuade disillusioned Roman Catholics back to the Labour fold.

Pope Benedict meets Professor Hawking

Courtesy of Reuters, Science meets Religion:

Pope Benedict XVI received a delegation of top scientists among whom was British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

Professor Hawking, author of the popular science bestseller 'A Brief History of Time', was in Rome to take part in a science conference on 'scientific approaches to the evolution of life and the universe' that will be held behind close doors at the Pontificial Academy of Science over the next few days.

The Professor has been paralysed for more than 40 years due to motor neurone disease, and is well-known for his theories about black holes, the big bang theory, and the nature of time and space.

Meeting the scientists ahead of the conference, Pope Benedict told them that, according to the Church, there is no contradiction between religion and science but that the universe is 'a book written by God', a Vatican press office statement said.

Cranmer fully understands why Professor Hawking has not bothered to journey to Lambeth Palace.

Obama on abortion, gay marriage, defence, taxation, education and justice

Cranmer would like it known that he does not accord with all that this video purports to ascribe to ‘biblical Christianity’. But, with four days to go, and things looking a little bleak for Senator McCain - not to mention the most unlikely Obamacons (or those who are 'torn') popping up all over the place – His Grace has to contribute to the GOP campaign as best he can.

Lord Tebbitt speaks in honour of Baroness Thatcher's Bruges Speech

Cranmer has mentioned the dinner held on Monday by the Bruges Group to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s famous Bruges Speech.

Here are excerpts of Lord Tebbitt's contribution, in which he calls on the Conservative Party to take early action when in power to resolve the European question. He encourages the next Conservative government to show ‘Thatcherite courage and determination’.

It is vintage stuff. And there is a brief glimpse of the Great Lady towards the end.

Whatever happened to political 'greatness'?

Parliament ought to learn from the BBC

Cranmer has nothing but (qualified) praise for Mark Thompson and/or the BBC Trust. Here was a failure of control; an egregious error of judgement; an embarrassing lapse in standards. Certainly, Mr Thompson was a little late in taking the issue seriously; and certainly, 27000 complaints were apparently only received after people had purposely listened to the Radio 2 broadcast and decided to be offended. But even more certainly, many licence fee payers who could not be bothered to actually complain were somewhat disturbed to hear about the harassment of actor Andrew Sachs and his granddaughter.

And so one of the primary offenders in the public sphere, Russell Brand, felt obliged to resign. The other public offender, Jonathan Ross, has been suspended for three months and effectively fined £1.5 million. And behind the scenes, the Controller of Radio 2, Lesley Douglas, has honourably fallen on her sword. Cranmer had never heard of her, and probably never will again. But her guilt is manifest. If she listened to the recording and approved it for broadcast, she displayed an astonishing lack of judgement. And if (more likely) she approved the programme without listening to it, she is guilty of a dereliction of duty.

Is it not heartening that those responsible for this debacle have either resigned or been sacked? Responsibilities have been taken seriously, punitive action has been taken, and the Controller of Radio 2 has displayed an admirable integrity.

There was a time when Ministers and Secretaries of State would resign. Ministers of the Crown are supposed to be responsible for (1) his/her private conduct; (2) the general conduct of his/her department; and (3) acts done (or left undone) by officials in his/her department. In the age of political integrity (which was, let us face it, under a Conservative administration), ministers would resign (or felt obliged to offer their resignations) over events quite outside their immediate control. One thinks of the junior British Foreign Office Minister, Richard Luce, who resigned in 1982 along with his two ministerial colleagues, accepting personal responsibility for the Argentine invasion of the Falklands. He said, “It is an insult to ministers of all governments, of whatever colour or complexion, to suggest that officials do not carry responsibility for policy decisions. Ministers do so, and that strikes at the very heart of our parliamentary system.”

And then there was Willie Whitelaw and his sense of personal failure when the Queen had an unexpected visitor in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace. Responsibility for the breach in security was evidently several tiers beyond him, and the public was not demanding his head, but he felt, as Home Secretary, that he was ultimately responsible.

And then list goes on: Keith Speed (opposition to Government Defence Estimates), Nicholas Fairbairn (Glasgow rape case non-prosecution), Lord Carrington, Humphrey Atkins (with Richard Luce, over the invasion of the Falkland Islands), Nick Budgen (opposition to Government plans for devolution to Northern Ireland), Cecil Parkinson (revelation of affair out of wedlock and pregnancy of mistress), Ian Gow (opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement), Michael Heseltine (failure of Government to support European bid for Westland Helicopters), Leon Brittan (complicity in leak of Solicitor-General's letter on Westland Helicopters scandal), Edwina Currie (inaccurate remarks on risk of salmonella from eggs), Nigel Lawson (role of Prime Minister's Economic Adviser), Nicholas Ridley (offensive remarks about Germany), Geoffrey Howe (Government policy on Europe), David Mellor (revelations in a libel case of acceptance of hospitality from PLO officials), Michael Mates (giving a watch to corrupt businessman), Tim Yeo (revelation of extra-marital affair and pregnancy of mistress), Earl of Caithness (suicide of wife), Michael Brown (revelation of affair with man under the age of consent), Tim Smith (acceptance of money for asking Parliamentary Questions), Neil Hamilton (allegations of acceptance of money for asking Parliamentary Questions), Allan Stewart (confrontation with anti-road campaigners), Charles Wardle (opposition to Government policy on immigration), Robert Hughes (revelation of extra-marital affair), John Redwood (decision to challenge John Major for Leadership of the Conservative Party).

Even if some of these were actually innocent, they understood that they were perceived to be sufficiently tainted in the public eye as to seriously compromise their functioning in government.

Contrast this with the present Labour administration. The extra-marital affairs of David Blunkett or John Prescott were not deemed relevant to their functioning at the highest levels of government. Looking back over the period since the war, a great cultural divide between the Conservative and Labour parties becomes apparent. Not a single Labour minister has resigned since 1945 because of his or her sexual behaviour (even the homosexual Ron Davies resigned for losing his ministerial briefcase in his ‘moment of madness’ on Clapham Common).

No matter what the issue, no matter how serious the consequences, there are very few who take responsibility. One thinks of the Iraq war, the ‘dodgy’ intelligence, David Kelly’s suicide, numerous accounts of lost data disks in the departments of health, defence or transport, Ken Livingstone’s anti-Semitic remarks, the SATs fiasco, the failure to deport illegal immigrants, peerages for cash. The list goes on.

Instead of doing the honourable thing, the tendency is to hide behind quangos, unelected bureaucrats, appointed individuals, contracted companies (not to mention the elephant in the room - the EU). And even if, as a Minister of the Crown, they were personally responsible for appointing the officer in charge or awarding the contracts (or surrendering the sovereignty), still they cling to office, protesting their innocence. Those who are directly accountable to the people are no longer the one's taking the decisions which affect people directly, and one might therefore understand the public's increasing disillusionment with and detachment from the political process.

There is no doubt that the Ross/Brand affair grew out of all proportion. But insofar as the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition both decided to enter the fray, both demanded action at the highest level, and both contributed to the media lust for blood, one might expect the BBC to demand the same standards of integrity and swift(ish) managerial decisions when members of the Government and Opposition fall short of the standards expected of those in public life. The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition must manifest the highest integrity and act swiftly when ministers and shadow ministers are found wanting.

Unless, of course, they are simply hypocrites.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cardinal O’Brien: Labour are like the Nazis

Before throwing around such accusations, one hopes the Cardinal has consulted with his boss who has first-hand experience of Hitler Youth. And if he did not, it is a curious hyperbole quite unbecoming of a man of his exalted status. Strong feelings are one thing – and they are feelings which, in the case of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, are shared by Cranmer and doubtless thousands of Christians – but writing an open letter to the Prime Minister, in which the policies of a democratically-elected government making law through the legitimate processes of a representative Parliament are compared to those of Nazi Germany, is not remotely acceptable.

The letter to Mr Brown (whom he addresses by his Christian name), speaks of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill as being ‘misguided’ and ‘potentially most harmful’. He complains that Schedule 3 (which ‘provides for taking tissue from incapacitated adults and children without their consent for the express purpose of creating embryos for research’) ‘has never been properly discussed in Parliament’.

Cranmer believes this was a focus in the House of Lords debate yesterday.

The Cardinal continues:

‘Should this Bill become law, removing tissue from incapacitated adults or children, without their specific consent in order to create animal-human hybrid or other embryos would be permissible, as would creating artificial sperm or artificial eggs from bone marrow or even cord blood.

‘The grotesque implications of these procedures are utterly horrifying. The proposals in this Bill represent a breach of 50 years of ethical medical research. They by-pass the Declaration of Helsinki, the Human Tissue Act, the Mental Capacity Act and the Human Rights Act. Removing parts of people’s bodies without their consent, utterly flies in the face of all BMA and GMC guidance on consent to research.

‘Such behaviour was last seen under the Nazis. Following the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945, the full horrors of the Nazi’s atrocities were revealed to a shocked world. The hideous savagery of their experiments convinced the civilized world that such practices must be outlawed forever. I am appalled that you are promoting a Bill which seeks, by stealth, to create a regime where extracting tissue and cells from human beings no longer requires their consent or involvement.

‘I am staggered that you would endorse legislation, which describes the creation of embryos from a person without their consent as 'non-invasive' and which enshrines the concept of ‘presumed consent’ in UK law. This legislation would set a nightmarish precedent, by allowing scientists to experiment on those lacking capacity - in the absence of explicit consent - largely as they see fit.

‘I urge you to amend Schedule 3 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill as a matter of great urgency and human decency.

‘Yours sincerely in Christ

‘+ Keith Patrick Cardinal O’Brien
Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh’

Now Cranmer wishes to make clear that he too finds the provisions of this Bill utterly repugnant, and has said so consistently since its inception, and has lauded Cardinal O'Brien for his contributions to the debate, with certain qualifications. But he has little time for the histrionic rantings of a cleric who believes that the behaviour of the Government is in any sense akin to that exercised in Nazi concentration camps; indeed, the comparison is insulting to the intelligence and manifestly demeaning to those who endured hell on earth.

But Scotland’s Cardinal has at least grasped some headlines from the Ross/Brand affair. Yet Cranmer would like to ask where is the all-too-quiet voice of England’s Cardinal? Or may now only a Scot rebuke a Scot, for fear of accusations of racism or stirring up English nationalism?

Moreover, where is England’s Archbishop of Canterbury?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ross and Brand suspended by the BBC

Cranmer does not usually enter such banal media trivialities as this, but he is somewhat irritated to learn that Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross have been suspended by the BBC for their puerile phonecall to the actor Andrew Sachs.

Whilst His Grace has little time for Mr Ross, and no time at all for Mr Brand, it must be observed that this programme was conceived and edited by some other BBC employee(s), and the decision to broadcast (for it was not live) was taken at a much higher level.

Certainly the telephone prank was offensive and distasteful, and Cranmer in no sense seeks to excuse it, but it is crass justice indeed which seeks to condemn only those who feature in the public gaze, when the greater crime is committed by those unknown to the public and undisclosed to the media.

Cranmer is of the opinion that Mssrs Ross and Brand ought to be prosecuted for harassment and making offensive nuisance phone calls, and the editor and programme scheduler ought to be sacked.

It is a damning indictment of modern politics that both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition should feel the need to jump on this absurd bandwagon at all. This is soap opera politics, reminiscent of the Prime Minister's apology to India for the 'Shilpa Poppadom' episode of 'Big Brother'.

It rather reminds Cranmer of his slight sadness when Margaret Thatcher bestowed honours upon Nigel Hawthorne (CBE) and Paul Eddington (CBE) in 1987 for their undoubtedly masterful performances in ‘Yes Minister’, while failing to recognise and honour the equally undoubted genius of the authors, Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn.

In a just society with a rational political discourse, credit where it is due should be mirrored by damnation where it is due.

Barack Obama and live birth abortion

Live birth abortion?

Senator Obama voted three times against a Bill which would have outlawed the evil of ‘live birth abortion’.

It is a termination process which involves the birth of a live baby, the issuing of a birth certificate, the purposeful abandoning of the baby to a slow and tortuous death, and the callous issuing of a death certificate.

Is this not infanticide?

By law, if an aborted baby is born alive, both birth and death certificates must be issued. Ironically, the cause of death often listed for live aborted babies is ‘extreme prematurity’, which amount to a confession by doctors that they have caused this death. It is not uncommon for a live aborted baby to linger for an hour or two or even longer. One baby is reported to have lived for almost an entire eight-hour shift. Many of these babies are born completely healthy, for they are terminated at 40 weeks for the ‘health’ of the mother, and also in cases of rape or incest. Ever since Doe v Bolton (the companion case to Roe v Wade) the United States Supreme Court has adopted the definition of the World Health Organisation for ‘health’, defined as ‘any condition that might impact her physical, emotional, psychological or financial well being’.

So live birth abortion is permitted in many US states up to nine months for emotional (can’t cope), psychological (don’t want to cope) or financial (can’t afford it) reasons, effectively extending abortion to on demand.

When the aborted baby is born alive, he or she (for the baby can no longer be an ‘it’) receives what is known as ‘comfort care’, during which the baby is kept warm in a blanket until he/she dies. Parents (for that is what they are) may hold the baby if they wish. If they do not want to hold their dying aborted baby, a staff member cares for the baby (if they have time) until he/she dies. If staff do not have time, the baby is simply abandoned to die a slow, lingering death.

Perversely, the evil of child-killing is given spiritual trappings, with the option of baptism for the child who is killed. Hospitals provide baptismal certificates and gowns, and even a first-photo machine to record the birth.

All of which is cynically designed to make the parents (and medical staff?) feel better about the murder.

Cranmer would genuinely like to know how any Jew, Christian or Muslim could vote for a man who not only privately supports this practice, but actively legislates for it. Pace Biden and Pelosi, how do all these ‘Catholics for Obama’ reconcile this manifest abomination with their Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life? According to the LA Times, no candidate in recent memory has entered the White House without securing a majority of the votes cast by Catholics, who now constitute 25 per cent of the population. Is the Catholic vote any longer Catholic?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Diwali

Cranmer would like to wish all of his Hindu, Sikh and Jain readers and communicants a Happy Diwali.

As you celebrate your festival of lights, may you draw nearer to the Light of the World.

As you contemplate your row of lamps, may you find the lamp unto your feet.

As you recommit to family values, may you seek the source of joy, love, and forgiveness.

The City of London Association of Muslim Police

This cannot be the same as the Muslim Police Association, or the National Association of Muslim Police, for they have existed for quite a few years. And neither can it be the same as the Association of Muslim Officers, or the Association of Muslim Police Officers, for they have also been featured in the media on quite a few occasions. And none of these can be the same as the Black Police Association, even though, one presumes, the Asian Muslims are eligible to members of all of them.

No, the City of London Association of Muslim Police is something quite new, for it has just been launched.

But before Cranmer begins to re-live a famous moment from The Life of Brian, he wishes to focus on the ‘benefits’ the new association will bring.

Security and Policing Minister Vernon Coaker MP commented: 'Organisations such as yours will have a crucial role to play in overcoming the negative stereotypes that can lead to fear of muslims and Islam. There is only so much a single organisation can do but, on a collective basis, you can make a massive difference. I will strive to work with you to achieve a diverse police service that reflects the diverse nature of communities.'


So forming a distinct and separate police group within the Metropolitan Police will help to overcome negative stereotypes. And the segregation of Muslim police office will allay fears about Muslims and Islam.

This will lead, as sure as night follows day, to ‘Muslim areas’ of London being policed only by Muslim officers, for the kuffar will not be welcome. There is already a very vocal Muslim contingent which does not wish the British police a pleasant afterlife.

The police should be the police. While, since the distorted media portrayal of Macpherson, one may understand a little racial sensitivity, religion really ought not to enter the equation.

And that includes the Christians.

If it persists, Cranmer shall campaign not only for Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist police associations, but he shall demand of the Home Secretary a definition of religion, and seek to establish the Jedi Police Association for all those disaffected with the whole politically-correct quota nonsense which is infecting societal cohesion of and proving detrimental to the common good – if such a concept any longer exists.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Guardian on Martin Luther

In an effort to dish the dirt on ‘the father of Protestantism’, The Guardian reports that scientists have found his toilet and various medicines which establish he suffered from angina and constipation. They also profess to have discovered that the Luthers used to throw dead cats into their rubbish bin, and that the nails used to secure the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg were nothing more than drawing pins.

In addition, he was portly and well-fed, weighing in at 23st 8lb when he died. And he was not born into humble and lowly circumstances, but into a wealthy, land-owning family of usurers.

But the claim by historians which will arguably be most upsetting for followers is the recently uncovered written evidence that it was not, as thought, a lightning bolt which led to the then 21-year-old's spontaneous declaration he wanted to become a monk. Rather, it was his desperation to escape an impending arranged marriage.

Cranmer is not disturbed by any of this, for the details of disputed points of history will always be subject to degrees of interpretation, and the hagiographers will always embellish the reputations of their idols.

But His Grace does wish to ask The Guardian why it does not give the same treatment to (say) Mohammed, the father of Islam, or to Guru Nanak, the father of Sikhism, or to any one of a number of popes who profess to be the fathers of princes and kings.

One wonders if there is some symbiosis between The Guardian's anti-Semitism and its anti-Protestant attitudes.

Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges Speech – 20 years on

On September 19th 1988, Margaret Thatcher lit a candle in Bruges which to this day has not been extinguished. In a speech to the College of Europe, she proclaimed: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level, with a European super state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”

This is the central tenet of what became known as the ‘Bruges Speech’, which, two decades on, remains a seminal text for British ‘Euro-sceptics’. And doubtless it will continue to be so until the nation is liberated from

This evening the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven OM will be the guest of honour at a dinner commemorating the 20th anniversary of her speech, and there will be contributions from the Lord Tebbit and Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic. His Grace was invited, but, owing to the lack of a corporeal presence, was unable to accept.

He does, however, wish to send his best wishes to the Great Lady and also to the Bruges Group – the think-tank which was founded to work towards the realisation of Margaret Thatcher’s vision for the EU.

Doubtless there will be a few complaints from Cranmer’s communicants at Conservative HQ or those who join us from Parliament’s servers, with warnings that ‘banging on about Europe’ will do nothing to win the Conservative Party the next general election, or that it will cause divisions within the Party which will ‘turn the voters off’.

Well, Cranmer says phooey. Yes, he knows that is not the most eloquent of words, and that it falls far short of the standards he set himself in his magnum opus, but he is sick and tired of the tedious micro-management of nuanced policy shifts which get swamped by big media events like the foot and mouth, bird flu, global warming or the credit crunch, only for Prime Minister Brown - like Prime Minister Blair before him – to arise from a near death experience (with the unparalleled genius assistance of the Lord Mandelson), and watch a thirty-point lead in the polls to be eroded back to single digits.

The thought of a fourth Labour victory is too depressing to contemplate.

The Conservative narrative must be changed to incorporate some big, unforgettable, media-dominating headlines which can sink into the national consciousness over the next year. There is no point delaying such announcements until nearer the election, for there will be no time to expound the details, and no time for the electorate to grasp the vision or believe it were possible.

And so the Lord Tebbit articulates one such policy: David Cameron must promise a referendum on whether the UK should leave the European Union.

Simple, straightforward, democratic, and popular. The Conservative Party would win one of its largest majorities ever, and could remain in office long enough to implement a generation of transformative and regenerative policies.

Just think of a Conservative Party articulating the Thatcher conviction – authentic, courageous, visionary, and inspirational. The manifesto is written:

‘The first guiding principle is this: willing and active co-operation between independent sovereign states is the best way to build a successful European Community.

‘To try to suppress nationhood and concentrate power at the centre of a European conglomerate would be highly damaging and would jeopardise the objectives we seek to achieve.

‘Europe will be stronger precisely because it has France as France, Spain as Spain, Britain as Britain, each with its own customs, traditions and identity. It would be folly to try to fit them into some sort of identikit European personality.

‘Some of the founding fathers of the Community thought that the United States of America might be its model. But the whole history of America is quite different from Europe.

‘People went there to get away from the intolerance and constraints of life in Europe.

‘They sought liberty and opportunity; and their strong sense of purpose has over two centuries, helped create a new unity and pride in being American - just as our pride lies in being British or Belgian or Dutch or German.

‘I am the first to say that on many great issues the countries of Europe should try to speak with a single voice. I want to see us work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone. Europe is stronger when we do so, whether it be in trade, in defence, or in our relations with the rest of the world.

‘But working more closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an appointed bureaucracy.

‘We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them reimposed at a European level, with a European super¬state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.

‘Certainly we want to see Europe more united and with a greater sense of common purpose. But it must be in a way which preserves the different traditions, parliamentary powers and sense of national pride in one's own country; for these have been the source of Europe's vitality through the centuries.

‘If we cannot reform those Community policies which are patently wrong or ineffective and which are rightly causing public disquiet, then we shall not get the public's support for the Community's future development.

‘What we need now is to take decisions on the next steps forward rather than let ourselves be distracted by Utopian goals. Utopia never comes, because we know we should not like it if it did.

‘Let Europe be a family of nations, understanding each other better appreciating each other more, doing more together but relishing our national identity no less than our common European endeavour.

‘Let us have a Europe which plays its full part in the wider world, which looks outward not inward, and which preserves that Atlantic Community - that Europe on both sides of the Atlantic - which is our noblest inheritance and our greatest strength.’

It is the stuff of greatness: it could be the foundation of a new era of Conservative inspiration and leadership.

On the other hand, they could continue talking about ‘being in Europe but not run by Europe’ (while ‘ever closer union’ continues apace), sharing the proceeds of growth (in a recession), adjustments to capital gains tax (while house prices plummet), fixing Britain’s ‘broken society’ (while Parliament legislates for fatherless children), improving standards in education (while truancy and exclusion rates soar), bringing back matron (while people die for want of drugs), or the importance of societal cohesion (while local authorities are at breaking point coping with uncontrollable immigration).

Or they could even ape Senator Obama and just talk about the need for change.

That seems to work.

But without a vision, the people perish.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It’s official: church-going will make you vote McCain

Cranmer is amused, though not surprised, to learn that a recent survey reveals that support for the McCain-Palin ticket is proportionate to one’s church-going commitment. Senator Obama rates poorly among white Evangelical Protestants who attend church at least once a week - just 17% of this group support him. By contrast, 37% of white Evangelicals who attend services less frequently support him.

When it comes to observant white Roman Catholics, Senator Obama and Senator McCain are neck-and-neck at 45% each. But Senator Obama has a clear lead among those who attend Mass infrequently (53% to 38%). So Joe Biden’s brand of pick-n-mix Catholicism and Barack Obama’s nebulous liberalism are attractive to part-time Christians of all hues.

Cranmer has no figures on Synagogue-attending Jews, though he understands that the Obama-Biden ticket is expected to attract 80% of the Jewish vote. And he is quite certain that among Mosque-attending Muslims the Senator’s rating is stratospheric.

It is intriguing that Senator Obama's support is strongest amongst the apostate and recalcitrant, and that he attracts the recusants and heretics. One wonders to which God he prayed to be made a servant.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Jews for Obama

For some reason Jews in the US have always voted Democrat by quite a large margin, and this election is proving no different. It has been observed by Melanie Phillips that ‘Jews voting Republican is as unthinkable as eating a ham sandwich on Yom Kippur. Indeed, a number of them would rather eat a ham sandwich on Yom Kippur, because their conviction that religion is bunk and has nothing to do with being Jewish comes second only to their conviction that Republicans are the acme of evil’. And so Senator Obama has a healthy lead among Jews in the crucial swing states, and, like Catholics for Obama, they could be responsible for sending him to the White House. While many of these Jews undoubtedly take their faith seriously, it is apparent that for others it has largely become a folk religion which is undermined by those sectarian individuals who happen to have a favourable disposition towards Israel.

But it is to President Obama’s policy on the Middle East that Jews must look if they are to discern the heart of the man.

Barack Obama has captured the narrative of the age – he is neither black nor white; he is a professing Christian of Muslim origin; and he offers a ‘more balanced’ policy on the Israel-Palestine issue which has bedevilled every US president over the past 60 years: he will be neither pro-Israel nor pro-Palestine. And so it will be that Israel shall face its greatest battle for existence than any time since 1967, for, under President Obama, some 150,000 Jews shall be dispossessed and forcibly re-housed; a right-of-return shall be implemented for those Muslim Arabs who fled to Jordan half a century ago; and the democratic foundations of Israel will be eroded.

Nationwide in the US, a Gallup survey has found that Jews prefer a President Obama by 74% to President McCain's 22%. Despite Senator Obama's strong appeal to the youth vote, the Gallup poll actually found that younger Jews are less likely to support him, with only 67% of 18- 34 year-olds choosing him, as against 74% of those over 55. The Jerusalem Post posits that this disparity ‘could stem from the higher rate of Orthodox observance and therefore more conservative views among young Jews, though Gallup found the younger Jews were no more likely to describe their political beliefs as conservative than older voters’.

According to Melanie Phillips, American Jews for Obama are ‘the equivalent of chickens voting for Shabbat’. Just because the Senator says he loves Israel does not mean that he does – he is, after all, still a scurvy politician. Ms Phillips refers to the fact that ‘for 20 years he belonged to a "black power" church whose pastor - and his own personal spiritual mentor - was an acolyte of the Jew-hating demagogue Louis Farrakhan, and who also supported Hamas as a resistance movement’.

Senator Obama has also said: ‘Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people’, and has stated that he would invite Iranian fanatics like President Ahmadinejad to the White House without preconditions. The fact that Iran has nuclear ambitions and has threatened to wipe Israel off the map is neither here nor there.

For most American Jews, President Bush is a Republican and therefore always wrong, and Senator Obama is a Democratic and can therefore do no wrong. And Ms Phillips points out:

‘American Jews ignore the fact that all Obama's foreign-policy advisers are veteran Israel-haters. They ignore his long-standing friendship with Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi.

‘Khalidi has written that Israel has carried out the "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians; that Israel should be replaced by a bi-national, cantonal system for Jews and Arabs; and that suicide bombings are a response to "Israeli aggression". Obama has said he merely had "conversations" with Khalidi. But reports say the Khalidi and Obama families are long-standing friends. In 2000, Khalidi raised funds for Obama's failed bid for a seat in the US House of Representatives. And according to the Los Angeles Times, Obama said his talks with the Khalidis served as "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases? a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table", but around "this entire world".

‘No matter. All of this is simply erased from the gaze of America's Jews in their own collective blind spot. As a result, as pro-Palestinian blogger Ali Abunimah let slip at The Electronic Intifada, Obama is playing them for suckers. Abunimah wrote that during his campaign for the US Senate, Obama told him: "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I'm hoping when things calm down I can be more upfront."

And so it came to pass that President Obama was indeed more upfront, and those Jews who voted for him turned their eyes away from the appalling plight of Israeli Jews (not to mention the Christians), and hardened their hearts to all criticism. And thus did they sustain their righteousness and the purity of their souls.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Phil Woolas MP: The Church of England will be disestablished

Cranmer has little time for this irritating, little immigration minister who knows not a lot about anything, but who predicts the eventual disestablishment of the Church of England, and prophesies that it will be ‘stripped of its privileges within 50 years as Britain was now a multi-faith society’. He argues that Labour’s reform of the House of Lords will eventually lead to the historic links between Church and state being severed: ‘Once you open debate about reform of the House of Lords you open up debate about the make-up of the House’.

Politicians with crystal balls are almost invariably intellectually deficient or mentally imbalanced. But Mr Woolas is joined today by the eminent Dr Sean Gabb, who, also writing in The Times, is of the opinion that the Church ‘should be disestablished because it has, in a sense, disestablished itself. It has made itself an object of derision where not of contempt. It should not be allowed to continue representing itself as England at prayer’.

Cranmer finds Dr Gabb’s argument far more cogent than that of Mr Woolas, not only because Dr Gabb has a grasp of history and of the constitution (not to mention the pathological Socialism of the bishops), but because there is a sense in which Mr Woolas is simply pandering to minority votes without any consideration of the undeniable fact that there are many Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Roman Catholics who value the place of the Established Church. A multi-faith society can certainly accommodate a privileged position for one religion, especially if that religion is as accommodating and benign as Anglicanism. It provides a canopy of religion under which all religions may find a voice in the public political sphere.

And Dr Gabb understands perfectly that the disestablishment of the Church will lead inexorably to the destabilisation of the monarchy. Yet he asserts that ‘the monarchy has destabilised itself. The settlement by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was that we would regard the monarch as the Lord’s anointed. The monarch would, in turn, safeguard our liberties. Without mentioning any other dereliction, Her Majesty this year allowed ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, despite its implications for how we govern ourselves, and despite the promise by the Government in 2005 that what became the treaty would not be ratified without a referendum’.

Cranmer made this point some months ago. When the monarchy abdicates its authority and voluntarily subjugates itself to a higher ruling power, it loses its raison d’être. It can no longer defend the Protestant Reformed Religion any more than it can defend the rights, liberties and traditions of the people.

Yet what interests Cranmer in respect of Mr Woolas’ statement is the slap he received from a Ministry of Justice spokesman, who said: “The government remained committed to the Church and valued its contribution.” And this is followed by a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman who said: "The Church of England is by law established as the Church in England and the Monarch is its Supreme Governor... The government remains committed to this position and values the establishment of the Church of England.”

If this is true, there can be no tampering with the Act of Settlement 1701. For that is the rock upon which the Act of Union was established and upon which the whole religio-political house of cards is constructed. Fracture that, and a myriad of carefully-woven constitutional threads will unravel at an alarming pace. Sinn Féin representatives will be able to take their seats in the House of Commons, members of the Privy Council shall be free to serve the higher purposes of Brussels, and Cranmer will be among the first to take advantage of a provision within the Act and declare that he can no longer swear allegiance to his Monarch.


Karma? Proverbs 29:23?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More Catholics for Obama

Now they have a website, and since they constitute almost a quarter of the US voting population, they are and undoubted force to be reckoned with. In the ‘swing’ states such as Ohio or Florida, Catholic votes will actually make a difference.

But this website really does plunge the depths of hypocrisy. It says:

Is Barack Obama really pro-life? The answer is ‘yes.’ Looking through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching, Senator Obama has spent his entire career striving for the common good. He supports health care programs that will cover all Americans, a living wage for working families, and solutions that allow distressed families to stay in their homes.

It further claims that he will reduce the number of abortions by promoting health care for pregnant women and infant care.

Cranmer wonders if ‘abortion’ means something different in the US to what it means in the UK. For Barack Obama appears to have an excellent record of maximising the opportunity for murdering the unborn at every turn. He is an ‘abortion extremist’, and supports legislation which would have terminated many Americans who are alive and kicking today. Further, he has voted against infant resuscitation legislation and advocates the right to abort fully-developed babies up to nine months ‘for undefined health reasons’.

This does not sound very pro-life to Cranmer. In fact, as Archbishop Raymond Burke has stated, such policies risk transforming the Democratic Party ‘definitively into the party of death’.

Of course Senator McCain and Governor Palin are both staunchly opposed to these increasingly liberal abortion rights, and many Catholics will doubtless vote Republican because of this.

While Catholics are exhorted not to be single-issue voters, the faithful are manifestly divided on the matter of abortion above all others. Either they must take The Tablet, or else millions of them have already supped with the devil in the abortion clinics just as they are content to divorce, dispute the teachings of their church, or take issue with their Pope. Or perhaps they have simply been alienated by the paedophile scandals which have brought American Catholicism to the brink of bankruptcy.

The cry 'Catholics for Obama' is becoming as trendy as 'Conservatives for Obama'. Sadly, both will be profoundly disappointed, and both will rue the day they abandoned their convictions. They are both, in the words of Gerald Warner, 'ideology-free lemmings'.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Abortion, darkness and devils.

The passing into law of the demonic Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was postponed last summer until after the by-election in Glasgow East, which has a strong Roman Catholic community. It did not help Labour’s campaign one jot, and the seat was won by the Christian ‘pro-life’ SNP candidate. Today, the Bill returns to the House of Commons, and ‘pro-choice’ MPs appear to have been prevented from tabling amendments to ‘up-date’ the 1967 Abortion Act to include more liberal rules which would permit nurses to perform abortions and end the need for two doctors. Additionally, it appears that Northern Ireland will not, after all, see abortions legalised in the Province.

According to reports - much to the chagrin of Harriet Harman - all discussion of the abortion clauses has been shunted to the end of the debate. If the Bill runs out of time, the ‘pro-choice’ amendments will not be debated, and Ms Harman will have lost her chance to liberalise the abortion law using this Bill.

However, while this appears to be good news and answered prayer, it is not impossible that the debate on the earlier issues will be swift, and the abortion amendments consequently reached. One must pray for an effective filibusterer.

We have already seen the defeat of the amendment backed by David Cameron to reduce the abortion time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. Proponents of this cause argue that there has been a considerable improvement in the chances for survival of those babies born at 24 weeks. But Cranmer returns again and again to these arbitrary time limits. What need you four and twenty, ten, or five? Indeed, what need one?

How can a mere law of man prescribe death for a 24-week-old developing baby, and yet grant the ‘right to life’ to one of 25 weeks? Why not 20? Why not 10? And if 10, why not five, or one?

In 1967 we were assured that legalised abortion would never to be ‘on demand’, but reserved for clearly-defined medical reasons. The reality, 40 years on, is that abortion is available on demand, and has become simply another method of birth control. And now we live in a world unforeseen through the misty haze of the 60s; a world in which a 21 week-old foetus may be delivered alive and, with medical intervention, may survive. In the womb the baby has no rights – he or she is an ‘it’; outside of the womb, with a precarious hold on life, ‘it’ becomes a ‘he’ or a ‘she’, with every right to life.

It is perhaps on this issue above all others in which religion, politics, science and morality all cohere. Roe v Wade was a defining moment for abortion in the United States, and Great Britain seems to have absorbed its central ruling by transatlatic osmosis. Women now may abort their babies for any reason, except in the God-fearing land of Northern Ireland. The likes of Nadine Dorries, Edward Leigh and Frank Field may be a rapidly-diminishing species in England, but they are a-plenty in the Province.

But why, oh why could Ruth Kelly have not made this her raison d’être; the summit of her political career? Why could the absolute devotion of a member of Opus Dei have not forced a conflict in cabinet, a crisis in government, and produced a martyr for a most worthy cause?

Instead, the Right Honourable lady resigned from the government last month in order to spend more time with her family be at liberty to vote against this odious Bill. Cranmer wondered in July what she would do when the Bill returned for its Third Reading, and now we know. Instead of absenting herself from the chamber once again – gallivanting to Brussels on some mysterious important meeting – she resigned from the Cabinet altogether.

Why? Why resign? The strategy is as limp as those adoption agencies which are preferring to close rather than fight their corner and letting the authorities bring them to court.

Of course there is a sense in which Cranmer admires Mrs Kelly. As a committed Catholic she had little choice but to vote against this Bill. But what does that say of her behaviour to date? If she now feels an overwhelming desire to vote against its provisions for fatherless children or ‘Frankenstein-like’ human-animal hybrids, why was this desire not so overwhelming throughout the year?

It is a manifest pity that Ms Kelly will not be the MP for Bolton West in 2010. Not because of the rising tide of Conservatism, but because she was developing a degree of conviction - the stuff of which true martyrs are made.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Abortion time limit fight 'is like battle to abolish slavery'

There Christian charity CARE has compared the battle to lower the abortion time limit to that of the abolition of slavery.

This is nonsense.

If the proposal before Parliament were for the total abolition of abortion, there may be some grounds for such a comparison. Or if Wilberforce had ever argued that slaves ought to be part-time captives, or that slave owners ought to decrease incrementally year by year the number of slaves they owned, there might be grounds for such a comparison.

But Parliament is not contemplating the abolition of abortion, and Wilberforce proposed no such compromise on slavery.

Wilberforce was absolute on the full humanity and equality of those who were enslaved. For him this was a known known. But Parliament is faffing around and arguing the toss over such unknown unknowns as when an embryo becomes a foetus, when a foetus becomes a baby, and when any of them become sentient or ‘ensouled’. Many of those MPs who are the most vocal in their laudable campaign to reduce the abortion time limit are manifestly not opposed to abortion per se, still asserting the primacy of the ‘rights' of the mother woman over the ‘rights’ of the messy multiplicity of cells dividing and developing in the womb: they simply wish to save a few babies at 20 or 22 weeks, while continuing to condemn to death those who are aborted at 19 weeks.

It is absurd to assert that anyone can know beyond doubt that a baby aborted at 20 weeks feels pain while one aborted at 19 weeks does not.

But CARE does not assist the Christian cause when they state that ‘supporters of abortion rights believe unborn babies are not fully human, just as plantation owners justified their ownership of African slaves by claiming they should not be treated as men’.

There are very many proponents of abortion who believe unborn babies are fully human, but they quite straightforwardly reason and conclude a moral argument for the superior rights of the mother, who is also fully human, and who wishes to eradicate the parasite which is feeding on the host. That fully human beings may be parasitic is not in doubt. Many of the worst offenders are usually to be found at Westminster sitting on the Labour benches.

CARE is equally fatuous in their assertion that ‘the similarity between (abortion and slavery) shows how little English society has progressed since the 19th century’.

Have these people entertained for one moment what it was really like to live in Victorian England - to experience society before Barnardo, before Shaftesbury, before Fry; before a myriad of inspirational individuals and societal developments which have manifestly ameliorated society a thousandfold?

Yet CARE does have a point when they state that both struggles are about ‘what it means to be human’. For what is not fully human has no need to be treated as human. That might at one time have been the negro, while now it is the developing baby in its mother’s womb.

If the battle to abolish slavery was about recognising that all men are made in the image of God, the battle over abortion is about recognising that life begins at conception. The fertilised ovum is sacred not because of its potential, but because of its being. It is human not because of what it will be, but because of what it is.

As the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill comes again before Parliament on Wednesday, let us hope that MPs will reject any relaxation of the abortion laws.

And let us go on praying that sometime from somewhere a latter-day Wilberforce might arise who will lead a campaign to abolish abortion altogether, for it is a stain on the conscience of humanity, and a fearful offence against God.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Austrian Chancellor: Anglo-Saxon economic model has failed

There are, according to Alfred Gusenbauer, Federal Chancellor of Austria, 'valuable lessons to be learned from the failure of the neo-liberal economic model’. And so he generalises that apologists for neo-liberalism ‘assume not only that states should be run like companies, but also that, as far as possible, they should not intervene in the economy’. He refers to the infallible primacy of ‘the market’, insisting that those who worship such an entity assert its immutability and its infinite capacity for self-regulation.

And he bemoans a ‘distributional quandary’ that ‘lies at the heart of the capitalist system’, which he defines as ‘never-ending competition fueled by the drive to maximise profits’. In such a world, he pontificates, there is no room for a social conscience.

And his solution is the State, which, like the Word in the Gospel of St John, becomes the author of not only all that is good, noble, right and true, but of everything. It is the State which must ‘fill the gap’, for while the market creates the wealth, only the State can ensure social justice. And so the Roman Catholic Chancellor of Austria lauds the social doctrine of ‘Europe's social-market economies’ (by which he means ‘continental’ Roman Catholic social doctrine) and decries the Protestant ‘Anglo-Saxon neo-liberal model’, which has failed badly, manifestly for want of a social conscience.

According to Chancellor Gusenbauer, only states may resolve this crisis, and these in turn need to be guided by cross-border regulation, which must itself be subject to the global government of ‘the international community’. He says: “A start needs to be made at the European Council meeting of the heads of state and government in Brussels in mid-October. It is crucial that the European Union accepts the challenge of the financial crisis at the highest level, draws the appropriate conclusions, and takes the logical next steps.”

As he lauds the EU – the mother of states - as our saviour, he states unequivocally that stronger regulation means ‘legally binding, globally applicable rules and standards. While important areas of economic policy are subject to rules that allow penal sanctions, the financial sector has a special status that is no longer acceptable’. Central banking in the UK (and in other ‘Anglo-Saxon’ nations) is a servant of the market. In continental Europe, however, central banks have a much more political function; they are centres of power and not mere facilitators for private markets. There was no doubt that the European Central Bank as defined by Maastricht would be the sort of beast that would need to override any ‘inconvenient’ oscillating electoral preferences. It had to be in the controlling hands of powerful financial philosophers.

All of which shows the absurdity of the Chancellor’s calls for ‘a democratically legitimised world finance organisation’. He does not articulate how his global system would ever be democratised, and he conveniently forgets that not only does the EU lack such legitimacy, but the ECB itself is immune from the inconveniences of democratic accountability. He refers to the need to expand ‘public financing for pensions, nursing care, and health insurance’ through a ‘European economic stimulus program’ because ‘Europe's nations (must) act in concert’.

This is global Socialism – unadulterated, unrelenting, unaccountable and undemocratic. It is the global advance of the continental notions of autocracy, cohesion, and corporatism, which are antithetical to the Anglo-Saxon right-wing philosophy of free markets, liberty, tolerance, and a sovereign legislature. Corporatism is an expression of Roman Catholic social doctrine, advocating enforced co-operation between employers and workers, with the State overseeing wages, working conditions, production, prices and exchange. It has been a recurrent theme of continental leaders that the eradication of the ‘dog-eat-dog’ world of Anglo-Saxon competition and the ‘selfish’ Protestant work ethic will promote social justice and order.

Catholicism and interventionist statism dominate on the Continent. The Conservative Party, which developed out of and alongside a Protestant Christian ethic, deliberately eschews denominational links and espouses free-market liberalism. When Disraeli referred to the Conservative Party as the National Party, it was essentially because of its defence of the nation state. If Britain ceases to be a state, the Conservative Party would be deprived of its raison d’être. This is the philosophical tension which lies at the heart of David Cameron’s promise to remove his MEPs from the EPP. While both may be ‘right wing’, they are separated by a religio-political gulf.

We see in the Gusenbauer plan a certain Euro-introspection, and this is defined - as the EU has ever been - by an antipathy towards some ‘other’; more by its antagonisms to the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ world than by its structures for advancing the interests of member nation states. François Mitterand confirmed this when he said: ‘France does not know it yet, but we are at war with America. Yes, a permanent war, a vital war, a war without death. Yes, they are very hard, the Americans, they want undivided power over the world.’ His successor, Jacques Chirac, similarly stated: ‘The object of a European defence identity is to contain the United States.’ The theme was picked up by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who said: ‘Whining about US dominance does not help, we have to act.’ These comments lend serious weight to the perception that the EU project is about the creation of a new state – not only adorned by anthems, flags and mottos, but conscious of the need to forge a distinct cultural identity which can be defined only in terms of what it is not; that to which it is antithetical.

As Margaret Thatcher observed, the EU is about Socialism ‘by the back Delors’. It is a tragedy that the front door has now been opened to it, and that it finds a warm embrace in a country which is not only now ignorant of centuries of Protestant liberty and reform, but has so quickly forgotten the imperative of the relatively recent Thatcherite reforms also.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jim Knight MP: Teach British children what Muslims did for us

When a minister for schools becomes prescriptive over the minutiae of the nation’s history syllabus, one has a justifiable cause for concern. While the greatness of Britain’s history is downplayed, its most inspirational leaders blotted out, the glories of its empire erased, and its Christian traditions set aside, Jim Knight is of the opinion that ‘It is very important for the whole country to understand the hugely positive impact that Islamic inventors have had upon the world, and for Muslims to take pride in it’.

And so schools should teach children ‘what Muslims did for us’ - the contribution Muslims have made to civilisation – ‘in order to combat the threats of extremism and discrimination’. Lessons should be given in ‘the scientific and cultural innovations of Islam over the centuries’ which would ‘give young Muslims a sense of worth and reduce their risk of becoming alienated and falling under the spell of radicals’.

And the ‘debt we all owe to Muslims’ includes ‘coffee and pinhole cameras to the three-course dinner and advancements in maths’. And so the National Curriculum should be amended to reflect this.

Cranmer is not of the anti-Islam fellowship which insists that nothing good could or ever has come out of it. And neither is he the sort of ‘phobe’ who tarnishes its adherents with the same brush and perceives a jihadist under every halal cornflake. But Mr Knight is wrong to insist that the history syllabus should be changed to reflect the positive contributions, while schools dare not mention the negatives for fear of being accused of ‘racism’.

Cranmer is no expert on the origins of the pin-hole camera, or, for that matter, the three-course dinner (didn’t the Jewish seder introduce the notion of ‘courses?), but he would be rather certain that the origin of such as these is, at best, contested. At worst, the claims of proponents of such concepts as ‘Arabic science’ are baseless or exaggerated. An Arabic- sounding name is not evidence of Islamic inspiration, for many who possessed such names were not the progeny only of Muslims, but also Jews, Christians or Zoroastrians. Their achievements in the arts, sciences or humanities were not because they were Muslims or because of Islam, but despite both. We do not, after all, credit the Roman Catholic Church with the achievements of Copernicus, or the Church of England with the theories of Darwin.

To eradicate all debate and produce text books which ascribe the glory to Islam will only serve to inculcate children with a notion of supremicism which will prove divisive. Why not just teach the dogmatic worldview of the Qur’an? For Allah created civilisation, and it is his laws which have been transgressed and it is his moral code which is disobeyed.

Cranmer has never met a Muslim who agitates for the origins of the pinhole camera or the three course dinner to be taught in schools. Yet he has heard of many who insist that Islam may not be questioned and the Qur’an may not be criticised. There can be no lesson on ‘what Muslims did for us’ without the counterbalance of what is being done in their name now - like the suppression of women, the execution of children, the eradication of free speech, the threats of violence, the erosion of Western notions of liberty and democracy. And there can be no unqualified credit without analysis of its perceived intolerance.

Muslim children who live in the United Kingdom need to be taught what Britain and Christianity have done for them – the provision of education, freedom of conscience and inquiry, debate and the exchange of ideas, equality, and reward for hard work. They should be taught to consider this, and then thank God that they do not live in Egypt, Iran, Syria or Saudi Arabia, where their liberties would be curtailed, their education narrow, their creativity stifled and their prospects diminished.

Jim Knight ought to read some Ibn Warraq:

A culture that gave the world the novel; the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert; and the paintings of Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Rembrandt does not need lessons from societies whose idea of heaven, peopled with female virgins, resembles a cosmic brothel. Nor does the West need lectures on the superior virtue of societies in which women are kept in subjection under sharia, endure genital mutilation, are stoned to death for alleged adultery, and are married off against their will at the age of nine; societies that deny the rights of supposedly lower castes; societies that execute homosexuals and apostates. The West has no use for sanctimonious homilies from societies that cannot provide clean drinking water or sewage systems, that make no provisions for the handicapped, and that leave 40 to 50 percent of their citizens illiterate.

Now then, Cranmer is going to make a coffee, and he shall be sure not to thank Allah for inventing it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Articles of faith: Sarah Palin v Joe Biden

There has been much discussion in all sections of the media about the faiths of the two vice presidential candidates - Governor Palin and Senator Biden. Mrs Palin is an Evangelical Protestant, and Mr Biden is Roman Catholic. Yet the faith of only one candidate is mocked, satirised and scorned, and is deemed to constitute evidence for a manifest lack of fitness to hold such high office.

Cranmer has a genuine question, to which he would like his intelligent and erudite communicants to turn their thoughts.

Sarah Palin reportedly speaks in tongues and attends a church which advocates ‘creationism’.

Whether or not she does is not the issue. But let us suppose she does.

Why should that render her unfit her for high office any more than, say, belief in transubstantiation or papal infallibility?

Friday, October 17, 2008

BBC: Islam should be treated more sensitively than Christianity

This is the widely-reported inference of statement made by Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, who is of the opinion that ‘because Muslims are a religious minority in Britain and also often from ethnic minorities, their faith should be given different coverage to that of more established groups’.


Hindus and Sikhs are also religious minorities also from ethnic minorities, but they are of the opinion that the BBC discriminates against them in favour of Islam. Yet it would undoubtedly be true to say that the BBC also treats them differently to the manner in which the corporation treats Christianity.

But how did we get from ‘different’ to ‘more sensitive’?

And why is a Roman Catholic - also therefore a member of a religious minority - prepared to inculcate the nation with greater respect due to Allah and Mohammed while his own God and Father may be dispatched to Room 101?

‘Different’ is designed to induce respect; it is deployed to encourage greater reflection, a pause for thought, serious consideration before one criticises or denigrates. Jesus is not ‘different’. Church is not ‘different’. The Bible is not ‘different’. Christians are not ‘different’. No, they are all mind-numbingly boring and utterly normal. But anything ‘foreign’ is exotic, and everything exotic is ‘different’, and anything ‘different’ must be handled with care, and anything that must be handled with care must be treated with great respect, and anything that must be treated with great respect must be worthy, and one must be sensitive to what is worthy, for what is worthy is greater than what is not.

Yet Mr Thompson insists that the BBC would broadcast programmes that are critical of Islam ‘if they were of sufficient quality’.

And therein lies the unattainable prerequisite. For this ‘quality’ would have to conform to all the BBC’s self-imposed, politically-correct red tape about ‘respect’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’, not to mention its responsibility to preach the gospel of relativism and pluralism. And so nothing critical of Islam, the Qur’an, Allah or Mohammed will ever be broadcast by the BBC, for to do so would offend, divide, incite, cause civil strife, and endanger the peace and security of the realm.

Mr Thompson said: "My view is that there is a difference between the position of Christianity, which I believe should be central to the BBC's religion coverage and widely respected and followed. What Christian identity feels like it is about to the broad population is a little bit different to people for whom their religion is also associated with an ethnic identity which has not been fully integrated.”

It beggars belief that the man responsible for broadcasting the musical ‘Jerry Springer -The Opera’ boasts that he has ‘never watched the Monty Python film Life of Brian’, insisting that his ‘Christian beliefs guided his judgments’. It is curious Christian discernment indeed that finds offence in the brilliant satire of Monty Python but none in the unintelligent crudeness of Jesus in a nappy who feels ‘a bit gay’.

Yet it is indeed interesting that ‘no political issue has so far come near Jerry Springer in terms of anger and emotion’. Mr Thompson says: “It wasn't politics that put a security guard outside my house, it was a debate about how the BBC handles religion."

Indeed. And politicians ought to realise that religion is deeper than politics, and that it is folly to try to separate the two, for they are fused, interdependent, symbiotic.

But what irritates Cranmer perhaps the most in the debate over the BBC’s religious output is that he is forced to pay for it through the TV licence: he is obliged to watch his fellow Christians, the Holy Bible, the beloved Church, the holiness of God and the Lord Jesus being ridiculed, despised, trashed and spat upon, while Allah, Mohammed, Muslims and the Qur’an are treated ‘differently’.

Where is the ‘respect for diversity’ or ‘equality’ in that?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Christian-Muslim statement on the global financial crisis

The Common Word group of Islamic scholars have met with sundry Christian theologians in Cambridge and London, and they have issued a joint declaration on the credit crunch.

Sadly, it did not talk of the love of Mammon being the root of all evil, but simply noted that:

We live in an increasingly global world that brings with it increased interdependence. The closer we are drawn together by this globalisation and interdependence, the more urgent is the need to understand and respect one another in order to find a way out of our troubles. Meeting at a time of great turbulence in the world financial system our hearts go out to the many people throughout the world whose lives and livelihood are affected by the current crisis. When a crisis of this magnitude occurs, we are all tempted to think solely of ourselves and our families and ignore the treatment of minorities and the less fortunate. In this conference we are celebrating the shared values of love of God and love of neighbour, the basis of A Common Word, whilst reflecting self-critically on how often we fall short of these standards. We believe that the divine commandment to love our neighbour should prompt all people to act with compassion towards others, to fulfil their duty of helping to alleviate misery and hardship. It is out of an understanding of shared values that we urge world leaders and our faithful everywhere to act together to ensure that the burden of this financial crisis, and also the global environmental crisis, does not fall unevenly on the weak and the poor. We must seize the opportunity for implementing a more equitable global economic system that also respects our role as stewards of the earth’s resources.

This could, of course, be a Jewish-Christian-Muslim-Hindu-Sikh-Buddhist-Jedi Knight statement, and it is all very pleasant indeed. Words are nice, especially the word nice, but they do not feed the starving, house the homeless, heal the depressed, of provide jobs for the unemployed. And where is there any mention of prayer?

It is one thing to talk of respect and understanding on a human level, for this is the very nexus of loving one’s neighbour. But talking of the ‘shared values of love of God and love of neighbour’ is precisely the sort of pseudo-theological multi-faith pap which confuses the faithful and leads people astray. Jesus defined one’s neighbour as everyone, including our enemies. The Qur’an makes it clear that the Muslim’s neighbours are ranked, with the kuffar treated somewhat differently from the ummah. The God of the Christians is not the God of the Muslims. One is YHWH, the other is Allah; one is immanent, the other is aloof; one has revealed himself, the other cannot be revealed; one is Father, the other is unknown and unknowable; one became man and dwelt among us; the other cannot condescend; one is mutable and responsive, the other is immutable and immovable; one is agape, the other is more judgemental; one is Trinity in unity, the other is unity; one died for us that we may be redeemed, the other refutes that Jesus died.

But as long as we can all agree that God is the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent transcendent creator, there can be a joint strategy for dealing with global financial meltdown.

Isn’t that so very heartening?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SNP demand the body of Mary Queen of Scots

While Fraser Nelson wonders if the credit crunch has weakened the case for Scottish independence, the SNP are bolstering their cause by demanding the return of the body of Mary Queen of Scots to her native Scotland. Yes, while the world is in financial meltdown and Scots are being made unemployed by the thousand, the SNP shows it truly has its fingers on the pulse of the nation by demanding the return of the body of a queen they loathed and rejected while she was alive.

The move to repatriate the Catholic monarch has the backing of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, sundry historians, and the eminent composer James MacMillan.

Queen Mary, who was born at Linlithgow Palace, fled to England after she was forced to abdicate in 1567. She was held prisoner by her cousin Elizabeth I, found guilty of treason and executed at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire 20 years later. Although she was initially buried at Peterborough Cathedral, her body was exhumed in 1612 when her son, King James I of England and VI of Scotland, ordered that she be re-interred at Westminster Abbey.

But Christine Grahame MSP is demanding that the body be re-reinterred at Falkland Palace in Fife, where the Queen’s father died shortly after she was born and where she spent some of the happiest years of her childhood.

Ms Grahame said: "She was an iconic historical Scots figure and ultimately the victim of English plotting."

English plotting?

Nothing to do with a minor matter of treason, of course.

Mr MacMillan said the return of Mary's body to Scotland would be a ‘profoundly religious and spiritual event’.

No doubt.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church added: "Mary Queen of Scots is undoubtedly held in very great and affectionate esteem by Scots Catholics who admire her religious devotion and fidelity to the church. As such, there would be significant interest among many Catholics in any plan to repatriate her remains."

One may detect a tinge of guilt here. It is a pity they despised her while she was alive, in favour of her one-year-old son.

Alan MacInnes, professor of history at Strathclyde University, said it would be fitting for Mary's final resting place to be at Falkland Palace, adding that she ‘shouldn't be in England under any circumstances’.

Not even the express wish of her son?

A spokesman for Westminster Abbey said: "The body of Mary Queen of Scots was brought to the Abbey in 1612, 25 years after her death, on the express instructions of her son, in order that 'honour be done to the body of his dearest mother. That is a responsibility which the abbey takes very seriously, and the body has remained in our care ever since."

Cranmer has a number of observations. Firstly, perhaps a pedantic point, but one presumes Christine Grahame refers to Mary I, Queen of Scots (1542-1567), and not Mary II, Queen of Scots (1689-1694), who was the dynastic successor to James VII, King of Scots, after the latter had been formally deposed by the Scottish Parliament.

Secondly, Cranmer sides with Westminster Abbey on this. The Catholic monarch's body has lain at Westminster Abbey since 1612 because King James I and VI ordered that she be reinterred in the Henry VII Chapel. This was manifestly his wish, and he was somewhat closer to his mother than Christine Grahame is.

Thirdly, France might have just as strong a claim on Queen Mary’s corps as Scotland. She was a Stuart and was French in all but birth. She was also Queen of France, and her mother is buried in Rheims. There is a very strong argument for re-reinterring her in the Basilica of St Denis in Paris along with the other French Royals or, in the House of Stuart Chapel in St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Fourthly, are not the SNP republicans?

And finally, failing the efforts of Westminster Abbey to retain the corps, Cranmer has a compromise solution. Since Mary was beheaded, why not let England have the body and Scotland have the head? This would be a most equitable distribution of the remains.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

As Iran prepares to execute Christian converts, thank God for David Miliband

Cranmer has been pondering this story for some days, though it is undoubtedly worthy of a much higher priority. He has previously mentioned the awful situation in Iran, especially for Christians, and is at a loss to know why Western governments are not applying rather more diplomatic pressure to bring about change. Ayatollah Khomeini declared non-Muslims to be impure, insisting that for Muslims to wash the clothes of non-Muslims, or to eat food with non-Muslims, or even to use utensils touched by non-Muslims, would spoil their purity.

It is well known that Iran believes itself to be a role model for the world – the ideal Islamic state - but it seems to be more reminiscent of Hell than any earthly kingdom of God, and is led by the increasingly mad Ahmadinejad who is intent on returning Iran to a level of barbarism forbidden even by its own constitution.

Rashin Soodmand is an Iranian woman living in Britain, whose father was the last man hanged in Iran for converting to Christianity. Now she expects her brother, Ramtin, to be the first to be hanged under the proposed ‘Islamic Penal Code’ which will demand the death penalty for any male Iranian who leaves his Islamic faith, while women would get life imprisonment.

The freedom to change one’s religion is one of the most fundamental of ‘human rights’, but in a nation which refutes any such post-Enlightenment notion, it is a pointless debate and a fruitless dialogue. The right to freedom of religion may be enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or in the European Convention of Human Rights, or even enshrined as Article 23 of Iran's own constitution. But this is no matter. Mad Ahmadinejad is a latter-day prophet, the Shi’a successor to Mohammed, and it is his divinely-appointed role to eradicate Israel and return the world to Islam. If that means executing a few apostates, so much the better.

While the Iran Liberty Association does what it can on its meagre funding, the EU is silent on all matters Iranian - possibly for fear of stoking American concerns. In fact Germany, Iran's largest foreign trading partner, has recently actually increased its business deals with Iran. The United Nations is mute, though this is not overly surprising, since Iran is probably next in line to chair its human rights council. But a voice cries in the wilderness. David Miliband, our Foreign Secretary, is almost alone among Western politicians to express his vehement opposition to Iran’s decision to punish apostasy by death.

It is bizarre indeed when a devout atheist puts the professing Christians to shame in demanding freedom of religion.

Ramtin is not, however, an apostate at all. He has never been a Muslim because his father raised both of his children as Christians. But the assumption is that all Iranians must be Muslims, and if they are not, it is a situation which needs to be rectified. There are, in fact, 10,000 Christian converts living in Iran, and also several hundred thousand Baha'is who are deemed apostates.

Imagine the choice – for we so easily forget it – that the police knock on your door, and take you away for questioning. They offer you a choice: you could denounce your Christian faith, or you will be killed.

Cranmer is no stranger to the trauma of the soul and the agony of the flesh. But we so easily forget that today - in Iran, in Iraq, in Israel, in China – we have brothers and sisters in Christ who are presented with a life and death choice, and they cannot bring themselves to renounce their Lord and God. Their belief in Christ is indeed their life, their deepest conviction, and they are prepared to die for it.

Iran’s clerics have instituted a mandate for judges who preside over criminal cases: ‘If the existing penal code does not include legislation on whether a certain kind of behaviour is an offence, then the judges should refer to traditional Islamic jurisprudence.’

This is, of course, Iran’s notion of Shari’a law. It is Shi’a jurisprudence, developed across generations of Shi’a scholars and clerics within the narrowness of Shi'a scholarship out of the confines of Shi'a history. And still there are those who demand or advocate Shari’a courts - Sunni and Shi'a - based on uncodified legislation and dispensing arbitrary judgements in Britain.

And what says the Conservative Muslim Forum on this matter? They are on record as saying that Iran should be free to possess nuclear weapons, despite their manifest utility in facilitating President Ahmadinejad’s quest to ‘wipe Israel off the map’. They also juxtapose Iran and Israel, demanding moral equivalence, ignoring the fact that one is a democratic nation which recognises the rights of minorities and permits freedom of religion; while the other is a barbarous totalitarian theocracy which executes women, children and apostates.

Cranmer awaits the intervention of CCHQ and an equally strong denunciation from William Hague. Until it comes, Cranmer will be praying for David Miliband, for his call is righteous, and is heart is full of compassion.
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