Red Tory, Blue Labour and Roman Protestants
So intrinsic to postmodern politics is the notion of being all things to all people that one may no longer hold strongly to any orthodoxy for fear of being labelled ‘extremist’. And God forbid that anyone in the Conservative Party might be too dogmatic on any particular traditional doctrine, for that irredeemably renders one a ‘Thatcherite right winger’. Like the Tory ‘Ultras’ of a bygone era, one risks being relegated to the peripheries of political activity, if, indeed, one is permitted to be active at all.
With the news that David Cameron is to become the first Conservative Leader to participate in a ‘Gay Pride’ march, Cranmer wonders why Margaret Thatcher or Norman Tebbit never perceived the value of such pursuits. Lord Tebbit would have doubtless been literally embraced by people with a certain fetish for leather. Of course, the character of the Conservative Party is forever changing, yet forever the same. It has always been prepared to abandon whatever seems exhausted and to dress itself in new attire. But they have always been recognisably Tory and Whig clothes. We are now in the era of the ‘Red Tory’ – just as Tony Blair was frequently accused of forging ‘Blue Labour’ in his infatuation with the ‘Third Way’.
And speaking of the next Emperor of Europe, there has been some discussion recently about precisely what religion he is. He knew the position of the Roman Catholic Church on homosexuality before his conversion. He has long been married to a Roman Catholic, with children brought up in that faith, so he could have been in no doubt about the Church's principled teaching on marriage.
So why did he cross the Tiber?
If he preferred an à la carte, pick ‘n’ mix type of Christianity, it is curious that he ever left the Church of England. If ever there were an expression of the faith which officially endorses the gospel of YouGov and canonises worldly wisdom, it is the Established Church. Mr Blair is now in open conflict with Pope Benedict, accusing him of being 'out if step with public opinion'. He is very publicly dissenting from the Church's moral teaching on such issues as divorce, abortion and homosexuality, so much so that it appears that he entered the Roman Catholic Church without actually becoming a Roman Catholic at all. At his reception into the Church, he would have had to declare: ‘I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God’.
Yet what Rome teaches apparently now constitutes unpalatable ‘entrenched attitude’.
Lumen Gentium warns that a person may indeed be in the bosom of the Church ‘in body’ while not ‘in heart’. In his inimitable ‘Third Way’ fashion, Tony Blair has forged a new religion, for he is a Roman Protestant. And Cranmer thinks he shall find more than 12 disciples to follow him along his revelatory path as he preaches a gospel which is certainly not that proclaimed by St Paul.
But speaking of Roman Protestants, Cranmer has come across another one – right at the heart of the ‘extremist Catholic’ IRA.
It transpires that Gerry Adams is also a ‘Third Way’ type of Roman Catholic, having given his confession that his religious beliefs are ‘more compatible with Protestantism than Catholicism’. The Sinn Fein president has revealed that he has not gone to confession ‘in years’, preferring to speak directly to God.
He says: “I have formed an opinion — and it’s probably a Protestant thing — that the notion of having some sort of middleman isn’t altogether necessary.”
Dr Paisley must be rejoicing over the sinner who has repented, and jubilant that his Christian witness has evidently had such a profound effect on the former terrorist.
Mr Adams expresses admiration for Protestant churches, and reveals: “I think the Methodists are the best, but I love the democratic nature of the Presbyterian church.” He adds: “I also think it’s downright nonsense that Christian churches are so divided. I think it’s madness.”
He loves the democratic nature of the Presbyterian church? Is he actually praising the achievements of Dr Paisley, under whom all divided churches should be united?
On a central tenet of Rome’s teaching – Transubstantiation (the belief that the host and wine at holy communion become the real body and blood of Jesus Christ) – Mr Adams replied: “Who knows?”
Yet he still attends Mass because he ‘wasn’t going to stop being a Catholic’.
There are those in another place who would doubtless assert that, holding these heretical beliefs, Mr Adams has certainly ‘stopped being a Catholic’.
With Tony Blair, there is a liking of the gospel story, an admiration for Jesus, an appreciation of the parables and teachings.
But these things a Roman Catholic do not make.
Cranmer welcomes these Roman Protestants to the never-ending concentric circles of the infinitely-diverse Protestant family.
Perhaps one day there will be a pope who might join them?