Sunday, January 31, 2010

Should Richard Dawkins be arrested for incitement to religious hatred?

‘And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Dawkins, that there is none like him upon the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that obsesseth ad nauseam about the non-existence of God, and escheweth all reason?’

With apologies to Job, is there a man on earth more obsessed with establishing beyond doubt the non-existence of that which does not exist than Professor Richard Dawkins?

Cranmer was asked during the week to fisk/respond to Professor Dawkins’ rant in The Times, but it is hardly worth it. He displays a sub-GCSE level of comprehension of theology and an utterly simplistic caricature of religious philosophy. If one were to critique evolutionary biology in such crass terms, Professor Dawkins would be the first to dismiss one as being an intellectually deficient ignoramus.

Yet it is a provocative piece of writing, inciteful even, for he appears to presume that the Revd. Pat Robertson is the archetypal Christian, and lauds him for his adherence to Christian orthodoxy.

What fate would befall Cranmer if he equated all Muslims with the ‘obnoxious’ Osama Bin Laden?

What persecution and injustice would he endure of he criticised the Qur’an; parodied the ‘nauseating’ and ‘barbaric’ teachings which emanated from the ‘nasty human mind’ of Mohammed; or said the ‘entire religion is founded on an obsession’ with killing the infidel? What if he mocked the ‘moral depravity’ of the ‘be-frocked and bleating’ imams; lampooned the ‘odious doctrine’ of Allah; or denigrated the sincerely-held beliefs of the ‘faux-anguished hypocrites’ who constitute the ummah?

Might he find himself in court, like Geert Wilders, accused of inciting hatred for daring to articulate a religious opinion?

Frankly, Cranmer is aghast that The Times has permitted Richard Dawkins to denigrate Christianity and Christians in this fashion.

Would they dare to print this address to British Muslims:

Bin Laden may spout evil nonsense, but he is a mere amateur at that game. Just read your own Qur’an. Bin Laden is true to it. But you?

You may weep for Pakistan where Bin Laden does not, but at least, in his jihadist, sub-Abu-Hamza ignorance, he holds up an honest mirror to the ugliness of Islamic theology. You are nothing but hypocrites.

Of course not. They would never permit such offensive invective against Islam or those Muslims who blamed the Indonesian tsunami on the 'loose sexual morals in tourist nightclubs'.

But neither would Professor Dawkins have parodied their beliefs or criticised their orthodoxy.

And it is also unlikely that The Times would have published such a tirade against Judaism and the Jews.

God forbid that they might be accused of anti-Semitism.

But Christianity? Yeah, why not.

Paedophile priests, bigoted bibles, patronising piety and corrupt congregations: drag the name of Jesus through the mud and no-one will really mind.

The wrath of Ruth Gledhill is the worst they have to fear.

And she is unlikely to challenge Dawkins’ monstrous fundamentalist caricature of the Christian God, not least because she does not appear to have the time (and neither does the other Times God-blog). And also they pay her salary.

Yet it is really quite astonishing that someone of Professor Dawkins’ academic stature should place the (largely inaccurate) secondary-source accounts of someone like Pat Robertson over the primary sources not only of Scripture but also over centuries of the considered and learned reflections of such literary theologians as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, TS Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins, CS Lewis… And over the labyrinthine theologies of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Schleiermacher, Barth…

But Professor Dawkins prefers the two-dimensional spirituality of Pat Robertson and his one-dimensional god because it is easier for him to shred. When the choice is between that or Dawkins’ atheism, one can see the attraction of the latter.

But they are really two sides of the same coin of zealotry.

All religions profess a higher knowledge and supreme truth, and Dawkins is no exception. But he is not an atheist: he is religiophobic.

And phobic to the extent that many moderate and reasonable atheists will have no truck with his obsessive, demented, fundamentalist extremism and his fanatical hatred of Christianity.

While most atheists are content simply not to believe in God, Dawkins appears to be psychologically disturbed due to some trauma in his upbringing, for he loathes the very idea that God could exist to the extent that bitterness and bile pour out of every word he speaks. If God is simply an imaginary being somewhere up there with Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, why does he get himself so worked up about it?

It is a quite irrational pursuit for an atheist.

The Professor needs to get out more and mix with a few moderate atheists. And he might learn from them that in many countries of the world the Christian faith is the tie that binds communities, gives them a moral framework, induces hope, inspires them to great acts of charity, and exhorts them to love their neighbour by doing all manner of good deeds.

Or did The Times pay him £1000 for his article?

Did he donate it to Haiti?

Or is he content to use their appalling plight to advance his insidious faith and demented doctrine and cash in on his prejudices, in exactly the same manner as he accuses Pat Robertson of doing?

It is wonderful that atheists should have the infallible professor to shepherd their flock: His Secularness Pope Dawkins.

But the man is a spineless hypocrite.

And The Times are evasive cowards.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Catholic education – Douglas Alexander's bare-faced hypocrisy

It appears that the Secretary of State for International Development met with Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday ‘to thank him for the Church's role in international aid, especially for the earthquake victims in Haiti’.

Quite why Douglas Alexander should presume the need to express gratitude to the Pope is unknown, but Cranmer finds it quite incredible that he also thanked His Holiness for the ‘Catholic Church's unique role on the world stage – particularly at the grassroots level delivering health and education services...’

One wonders if he thanked him for the Roman Catholic Church's excellent adoption agencies as well.

It beggars belief that a Labour secretary of state should thank the Roman Catholic Church for its education services when the Government of which he is part is doing its damnedest to destroy the ethos of faith schools and force them to conform to their simplistic, illiberal and ultimately totalitarian politically-correct ‘equality’ agenda which has no space for the religious conscience and no time for Christian tradition and orthodoxy. We are now in the absurd position in which secular bodies (especially the Office for Schools Adjudicators) are increasingly interfering in admissions to faith schools, thereby presuming to discern who does and does not subscribe to a particular basis of faith. If these schools no longer have the power to select children on religious grounds, it is difficult to discern how their distinct ethos can be maintained.

Schools and colleges have to cope with increasing government ‘social engineering’ legislation which seeks to impose secular values on their distinct curriculum and ethos. When Douglas Alexander thanked the Pope for his church’s education services, one wonders why he omitted to explain the intolerance that lies at the heart of the Blair/Brown agenda, especially with regard to the sanctity of life.

All the church schools wish to do is to educate children in accordance with their worldview - placing God at the centre of the formative process, teaching morals and spiritual values, with purity outside of marriage (which is male and female) and fidelity within, providing a framework of discipline, imparting respect and tolerance, instilling obedience to Scripture and to Christian orthodoxy.

One wonders if the Secretary of State is familiar with his party’s persecution of those who support Roman Catholic education services? Or of the rabidly-secular fundamentalist views of Barry Sheerman MP, who chairs the parliamentary cross-party committee on children, schools and families? Mr Sheerman detects 'intense turmoil' about the future of Catholic education, and revealingly asserted: “It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked. It does become worrying when you get a new push from more fundamentalist bishops. This is taxpayers' money after all.”

All credit to Douglas Alexander for thanking the Pope for his 'doctrinaire attitude' in resisting Labour’s anti-Christian attitudes and for being 'serious about his faith'.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Just War – from Augustine and Aquinas to Blair

Cranmer does not have time to outline the development of this theory. But it is presently constituted of four principal conditions: the threat of the aggressor must be certain; it must be the action of last resort; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must be proportionate.

It is all now conveniently summed up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Of course, the theory has evolved over the centuries, and the foundations actually pre-date Augustine of Hippo. But the conditions were written before the era of ‘weapons of mass destruction’, after which the concept of a pre-emptive strike became rather more important than a ‘certain’ threat or an ‘action of last resort’.

And so today Tony Blair justifies his war. And he does so standing on the shoulders of some of the world’s greatest theologians and philosophers.

But Mr Blair is neither a great philosopher nor a great theologian.

Notwithstanding that he has his own faith foundation, which is more than Augustine of Hippo or Aquinas ever had. And notwithstanding that, since his conversion to Roman Catholicism, he has sought to lecture another great theologian on matters of sexuality.

Today is Mr Blair’s dress rehearsal for his own Judgement Day. Sir John Chilcot is not quite God, and Mr Blair will not call him ‘Lord’.

But only because he has a ‘K’, not a ‘P’.

And Cranmer has no doubt that Mr Blair will swat away these irritable civil servants like flies. His defence will essentially be nothing more than ‘the hand of history was on his shoulder’ and he ‘did what he thought was right’ because he’s ‘a pretty straight kinda guy’. The war may have been insecure in ‘international law’, but Parliament gave its consent (in a way it has never done for any previous war), and this rendered the war legal.

We know that Mr Blair has been re-familiarising himself with documents and reading digests of the evidence given by previous witnesses. And he knows that he is not likely to be asked any questions that he has not already been asked, either by his Cabinet or Parliament, or by Hutton.

But the Chilcot Inquiry represents his last chance to justify the war, and shape the judgement of history.

His performance today is about his ‘legacy’.

And that long since ceased to be political: it is now acutely religious.

His political achievements, even leading governments of vast majorities which had the potential to make lasting revolution, were modest: academies, civil partnerships, minimum wage... He could have taken us into the euro, completely decentralised education, or completely reformed the Upper Chamber. Any of these would have been a revolutionary and lasting legacy. But instead he tinkered at the peripheries, compromising, blowing this way and that, always bending with the strongest wind.

But now he has his own faith foundation: the ‘Tony Blair Faith Foundation’, no less, which bestrides the secular world like a colossus. Well, not quite, but it is his church: it is the shrine to which they come from the four corners of the world to kiss. It is the inspiration for his theo-political quest for peace in the Middle East; the bedrock of his public life as world statesman; the cornerstone of his messianic desire to heal the world.

Spiritually, of course.

He tried to heal it materially, especially that ‘scar on the conscience’ Africa. But human nature got in the way.

So he has decided to tackle that first.

Tony Blair may be more conciliatory and humble today, but he will be no less defiant in his evangelism. When he is scorned, he will reason that a prophet is without honour in his home town.

He will have in his mind that Saddam Hussain started two bloody wars; the first responsible for millions of deaths. It was Saddam who flouted ‘international law’, for it was he who practised genocide upon millions of Shi’a Muslims and used chemical weapons of mass destruction on thousands of the Kurds. He was an abhorrent leader of a foul regime. He was ‘evil’.

And the world is all the better for his riddance.

Whether or not Tony Blair has a ‘Messiah complex’; whether or not he inhabits his own world of ontological Truth; whether or not he is unable to distinguish between his own opinions and those of God, on the Iraq War he was right.

The aftermath may not all have gone according to plan (if, indeed, there was any plan at all). But 50 or 100 years from now, the names of George W Bush and Tony Blair will be written down in history as those who brought democracy where there was dictatorship; who were saviours of a people who were oppressed; who brought light and hope where there was darkness and despair. And there will be statues and commemorative days of liberation, for Iraq, which was a creation of Britain from its inception, defeated evil and liberated its people.

Parliamentary democracy does not come about over night.

England should know.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

JD Salinger 1919 - 2010 RIP

Cranmer is very saddened indeed to learn of the death of JD Salinger, best known for his coming-of-age novel 'The Catcher in the Rye' about rebellious teenager Holden Caulfield, which was published in 1951. The work has been termed 'a bible of teenage dissent': it has been translated into 30 languages, and sold more than 65m copies worldwide. Salinger had an undoubted gift for the teenage vernacular and was able to enter the adolescent interior monologue in quite a remarkable way.

In tribute, with happy memories, fond affection, and very great respect:

If you really want to hear about it, you'll probably want to know about where I was born, but I can't really be bovvered with all that David Copperfield crap. So I'll just tell you about all this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got run-down and had to come out here and take it easy. I mean, that's all I told DB, and he's my brother an' all, so I sure as hell can't be arsed to tell you. He's in Hollywood and writes movies. I hate movies. They're so phony. But then I hate everything, cos everything's boring, right?

Whatevva. The day I want to start telling is the day I left Pencey Prep. Pencey Prep is this posh school out in Pennsylvania, which I guess makes me some kind of trustafarian, but I, like, like to think of myself as this deep working-class hero, rebel without a cause alienated gangsta. Anyway, that day I got back to school early after leaving all the gym gear on the New York subway an' all the fencing team were mad as hell but I wasn't that bovvered 'cos what did I care?

Did I tell you I had just been thrown out for flunking four subjects? Nah, thought not, 'cos I'm also a cool, unreliable narrator dude. Anyways, I wasn't that bovvered 'cos I'd been kicked out of all my previous schools. I mean, working is just so not hip when you've got all this other teenage shit going through your head, like sex an' girls an' sex an' how no one really, like, understands you.

Anyways, there I was kicking my heels till term ended on Wednesday, thinking I really wasn't that bovvered about how pissed my father was gonna be when he found out I'd been kicked out, when that sexy bastard Stradlater came in late after dating a girl that I fancied and I went mad an' got him in a head lock and then he called me "you crumby sonofabitch, Caulfield" an beat me up cos' he's, like, much bigger than me, so I thought, yeah, like, whatevva, sod this for a game of soldiers, and decided to leave school there and then.

So I picked up my last few hundred dollars and went to the station. I met the mother of a right bastard at Pencey on the train and told her I had a brain tumour, how funny was that? An' when I got to Penn station I thought about calling my mother, my 10-year-old sister, Phoebe, an' a couple of girls I vaguely knew who I imagined might want to have sex with me as I was feeling horny as hell, but then I thought, nah, can't be bovvered, I'll smoke 20 cigarettes an' try an' get drunk and check into a divey hotel full of perverts.

The bastards in the kind of phony bar that would have made you puke wouldn't serve me a drink - said I was too young - so I chatted up some 30-year-old women from Seattle. Two of them were right mingers, but the blonde was OK, but when they started laughing at me, I thought, I ain't bovvered, so I paid for their drinks 'an headed back to the hotel.

The elevator guy asked me if I wanted a prostitute an' I thought I ain't bovvered either way but I might as well as I was a bit lonesome, so I said yes an' then she came along an' she was cute an' all but I couldn't , y'know, do it, because it didn't feel right. Truth is, I'm a virgin, no kidding, an' I don't really get the sex thing, so I gave her $5 an' then she came back with the elevator guy an' demanded another $5 an' I said no way so he beat me up.

An' that's pretty much the story of the rest of the book. I thought about sex, I rang a few girls, went to the movies, visited some museums, thought about how crumby and phony everything was an', like, how no one really loves me. Occasionally, for a bit of pathos, I thought about my brother Allie who died of leukaemia a while back, 'an then I went home to see Phoebe 'cos I was running out of cash an' she's the only one who understands me.

"Dad will kill you when he finds out, Holden!" she yelled at me. "Why d'ya do it?" "Because school's shit and everyone's a phony," I replied. "But you hate everything, so what's the difference?" She was right, of course, but I weren't that bovvered, so I just said, "No one understands me", borrowed $8.65 an' left to wallow in more repetitive existential angst and have deep thoughts about saving children from adulthood in the long rye grass.

I went to see an old teacher, Mr Antolini, but he turned out to be a pervert, so I went back to Phoebe's school to tell her I was heading west to work in a gas station. "I'm coming with you," she said. "No ways," I replied, but she followed me to the funfair and we hung out together an' it wasn't too bad so I thought, whatevva. I wasn't that bovvered what I did, so I might as well go home.

An' that's it really. The psychoanalyst guy they've got here wonders if I'm going to apply myself when I start a new posh school in the fall, but in truth I doubt it. 'Cos at heart, I still ain't really bovvered.

Conservatism, Unionism, Protestantism and Orangeism

There is a lot of fuss and bother at the moment about the revelation that the Marquis of Salisbury (who was the most pro-Unionist member of John Major's cabinet) hosted a discreet conference last week at Hatfield House, which brought together Northern Ireland’s Unionist ‘strands’, the Democratic Unionists and the Ulster Unionists, with whom the Conservative Party are already in a formal electoral alliance.

The Guardian says such ‘blatant sectarianism’ will endanger the peace process, and according to Nick Robinson, the Government accused the Conservatives of ‘at best naivety and at worst cynicism’ for jeopardising the Northern Ireland peace process by taking sides in the dispute.

Just who does he think he is, this David Cameron, that he, a Unionist, should be so presumptuous as to attempt to unify Unionism?

It would not be the first time that a Unionist prime minister had dared to dream the dream of ‘Unionist unity’ – co-operation or (dare one really dream?) merger between the UUP and DUP in order to prevent a Sinn Féin victory at the General Election which would see Martin McGuinness become First Minister.

Cranmer has previously spoken of the realities which would face the Conservatives in the event of a hung parliament, and why a parliamentary alliance with the DUP would be of infinitely more worth than one with the UUP.

But the DUP, of course, are deemed to be ‘bigots’.

And Iris Robinson hasn’t helped.

David Cameron has long talked of creating a new ‘non-sectarian’ force in Northern Ireland, hence the alliance with the UUP. And the Conservative Party is now committed to contesting all 18 seats in the Province, potentially splitting the Unionist vote three ways (recalcitrant UUP, Tory/UUP, DUP) which will inevitably result in one or two extra nationalist SDLP/Sinn Féin MPs being returned.

Cameron’s Unionism appears to have irked one or two who are of the opinion that it is the task of the British Prime Minister to remain ‘neutral’ in Northern Ireland; to be a ‘referee’ in the childish squabbles and a grown-up ‘honest broker’ between the warring factions.

Why should one be ‘bipartisan’ with those with whom one shares no political objectives? Why should one seek to placate those with whom one has no philosophical affiliation?

The SDLP and Sinn Féin wish to see an end to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Queen removed as Head of State and a republic established.

Why should David Cameron feel obliged to hold ‘neutral’ or ‘bipartisan’ talks with republican nationalists?

The Daily Telegraph reminds us that David Cameron is, after all, leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party:

‘ seems a stretch to lambast Mr Cameron for doing his job as a unionist politician, which should be to find political ways to ensure Sinn Féin doesn’t end up the winner as the result of the failure of Unionism in Northern Ireland to get its electoral act together’.

‘ me retro but isn’t it refreshing to find at least one politician who hasn’t forgotten that republicanism and communism are bad for the United Kingdom?’

The Spectator talks of ‘moving Ulster politics beyond sectarian interests’ which The Guardian (ever with its eye on the political priorities) says will raise ‘tricky questions over the Orange Order’.

And the Orange Order is, to those on the outside, some sort of weird cult on a par with Opus Dei and the Masons.

Although there is no longer a formal link between the UUP and the Order, it is noted that all the party's leading figures are members. Sir Reg Empey, ‘who will carry the Tory and unionist flag in East Belfast’, is a member.

The Guardian notes: ‘The Orange Order bans Catholics from joining. And this is what it says about the qualifications to be an Orangeman:

‘An Orangeman … should strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome, and scrupulously avoid countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act or ceremony of Popish Worship; he should, by all lawful means, resist the ascendancy of that Church, its encroachments, and the extension of its power, ever abstaining from all uncharitable words, actions, or sentiments towards his Roman Catholic brethren...’

And then the newspaper helpfully explains:

‘What that means in practice is that members of the Orange Order are banned from attending mass at Catholic funerals. No doubt Cameron will be asked in the general election whether the Orange Order should lift its ban on Catholics and whether members should be allowed to attend the funeral mass of Catholic neighbours.’

What a bizarre perspective it is which highlights ‘tricky questions’ over personal religious adherence to Protestant Christian soteriological doctrine yet ignores the ‘tricky questions’ about the attempted assassination of Margaret Thatcher and the maiming and murder of members of her Cabinet. Or the murders of Ian Gow, Airey Neave (by the splinter group INLA), Anthony Berry, Robert Bradford and Lord Mountbatten. Or the fact that we are in government with republican terrorists, torturers, traitors and murderers who are now intent on controlling matters of British policing and justice.

Or perhaps these are no longer ‘tricky’ questions, but rather impolite questions which are simply no longer asked.

Should Mr Cameron be asked why he is a member of the Church of England when its (rather sectarian) XXXIX Articles of Religion condemn the ‘Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints’ as being ‘repugnant to the Word of God’; and dismisses the ‘sacrifices of Masses’ as ‘blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits’? Should he be asked why he is a Monarchist when the institution is closed (rather sectarian) against anyone who ‘shall hold communion with the see or Church of Rome, or should profess the popish religion, or marry a papist’? Or why he owns a King James Bible when its preface (rather sectarian) talks of being ‘traduced by Popish Persons at home and abroad’?

For anyone with any awareness of history, the Conservative Party was born out of Tory/Whig religious sectarianism and has steered a via media for three centuries. The Party has a strong tradition of social concern and action which is rooted in Protestant Christianity and fused with the establishment of the Church of England. Edmund Burke, the ‘Father of Conservatism’, advocated a Protestant understanding of man’s ‘moral agency in a civil order’. He talked of obligations which ‘arise from the relation of man to man, and the relation of man to God’, and made appeals to the ‘grand chorus of national harmony’ which derived from the Protestant Settlement and has been sustained through the age of Empire, the creation of the British Commonwealth and the assertion of Britain’s ‘continuing role on the world stage’, all of which have been shadowed by the Worldwide Anglican Communion – the universal theological expression of England’s ‘beautiful order’.

The Conservative Party, as it has existed since the beginning of the nineteenth century, is the Unionist Party. Its raison d’être has been defence of the union, and that union has been Protestant since its inception. The nineteenth-century Conservative social reformer Lord Ashley (7th Earl of Shaftesbury) argued that ‘our great force has been Protestantism... every step of our success has been founded upon it’.

The Party now deliberately and rightly eschews denominational links: one does not need to believe in any particular god to be a conservative. But British Conservative traditions have been Protestant; those elsewhere have been Roman Catholic. There is no shame in this history. In fact, it is so obvious that it is almost embarrassing to have to point it out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Will Islam save the United Kingdom by her example?

After the Battle of Trafalgar, Pitt the Younger was toasted as 'the Saviour of Europe'. He demurred, insisting that Europe was not to be saved by any one man: “England has saved herself by her exertions, and will, as I trust, save Europe by her example.”

We did, of course, ‘save Europe’ on many occasions.

Perhaps not always ‘by example’, but certainly by consistently maintaining a balance of power which was invariably in the national interest.

Now, of course, Europe has consumed (indeed, abolished) England: we are nothing but a country of ‘euro regions’, each directly funded by and subject to the foreign power; to the princes and potentates in Brussels who prohibit and permit, determine and decree, legislate and direct what we may and may not do.

But that is old news.

With a supine (to put it politely) national church, the marginalisation of Christianity and an increasing assertion of fundamentalist secularism, Islam may be about to the UK a great service.

Bear with His Grace on this one.

Harridan Hormone’s (EU-inspired) Equality Bill was dealt a severe blow in three key votes on proposed amendments in the House of Lords. The legal inequalities which our Masters in Brussels sought to force Parliament to eradicate were retained at Their Lordships’ pleasure.

The churches were prepared for the battle, and no doubt many thousands of Christians donned their breastplates of righteousness and interceded for victory. Cranmer wondered who might win (fully expecting, being a seasoned observer, that the Gates of Hell would prevail).

The issue of the extent to which churches (and other religious bodies) might continue to discriminate against employees on the grounds of their sexual conduct (or, for Pope Benedict, even their inclination), was of importance not only for religious liberty but also the right to freedom of conscience.

Baroness O’Cathain, supported by the passionate, charismatic and patriotic Archbishop John Sentamu (...would that he might succeed Rowan Williams...) insisted that religious institutions must retain their exemption from equality legislation which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexuality: they must be permitted to maintain their traditional ethos and have the right to expect that staff would uphold tenets of their faith.

And they won: a powerful coalition of bishops and Conservative peers defeated the Government by 216 votes to 178.

The Government, of course, still wants it to be made impossible for a Roman Catholic school to sack its head teacher if he should declare himself homosexual, enter into a civil partnership with his boyfriend, undergo gender realignment and then cross-dress (if such it would be) to come to school.

But such a law must be applied uniformly. Thus the imam in a mosque or the head teacher of a Muslim school may also not be dismissed on the grounds of sexuality.

One wonders what legislative madness it is that permits dismissal for consuming a bacon sandwich, yet not for consummating a same-sex union.

But the Government now have a problem.

Lord Tebbit put it succinctly when he said: "We have a choice tonight – whether we walk in fear of the law of the Lord or the law of Brussels. I know which way I am going."

The House of Commons could be asked to vote to overturn Their Lordships, effectively asserting EU judicial primacy over centuries of freedom of conscience and religion. Or risk prosecutions being brought by agitating atheists, militant homosexuals or tactical transsexuals against a church, a church school – or (Allah forbid) a mosque.

And this is not a trivial point of inconsequential levity.

While the Church of England has been content to do nothing to defend itself against foreign princes and potentates (indeed, it has been complicit in its own destruction), the Mosque of England might be a little less inclined to be told what it must and must not teach and whom it may or may not employ.

Will this Labour Government, consumed and distracted by its agonising death throes, ram this Bill through Parliament regardless of the views of the Lords Temporal and Spiritual?

Since the Archbishop of Canterbury has (again) gone Trappist, will the mosques assert the primacy of the Law of (the) God over the laws of man?

Will this England, which was wont to save herself by her exertions, now be saved by the example of Islam?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hayek v Keynes the 'Boom and Bust' rap

This is rather brilliant.

We’ve been going back and forth for a century
[Keynes] I want to steer markets,
[Hayek] I want them set free
There’s a boom and bust cycle and good reason to fear it
[Hayek] Blame low interest rates.
[Keynes] No… it’s the animal spirits

(Bless you, Mr Morus)

BBC discerns 'the most sinful nation'

Cranmer is not sure what the BBC is up to with this absurd (?) analysis, but he can guess.

The corporation produces a magazine called ‘Focus’ – ‘a magazine of science, technology and the future’. In latest edition (Feb 2010), there is an article on whether or not nature has ‘programmed’ mankind to be sinful.

The article is entitled 'Born to sin. Why nature wants you to be bad', and it examines parts of the brain that purport to wire people to commit the seven deadly sins. The article then asks which is the most sinful nation on earth and concludes it is the Australians.

Cranmer has never liked ‘Neighbours’, and (he must confess), finds Castlemaine XXXX, Crocodile Dundee, Kylie and Dame Edna all a little tiresome.

But he is baffled that the authors should conclude that Australia is ‘the most sinful nation’ on the planet when there are others who are waging civil war, murdering their own, letting millions starve, aborting their own children if they happen to be the wrong gender...

And the United Kingdom only comes sixth.


Just above Sodom.

And, of course, the United States is right up the top for ‘gluttony’.

For each of the seven deadly sins the rankings are

Lust: 1st South Korea (UK is out of the top 10)
Gluttony: 1st USA (UK 5th)
Greed: 1st Mexico (UK 6th)
Sloth: 1st Iceland (UK is out of the top 10)
Wrath; 1st South Africa (UK 5th)
Envy: 1st Australia (UK 5th)
Pride: 1st Iceland (UK is out of the top 10)

The analysts then allocated 10 marks to the first, then 9 mark to the second and so on with no marks to any nation outside the top 10.

And so Australia comes top with 46 points, USA second with 32, Canada third with 24 with the UK sixth with 17 measly points.

A bit of fun, perhaps.

Yet it is a little strange that taxpayers’ money is being used on this sort of quantitative (just) research which effectively says that sin is part of a perfectly natural national psyche and therefore quite beyond the control of a population and government: ie, God/‘nature’ has fore-ordained the United States to gluttonous excess.

There is no point resisting the will of God.

Monday, January 25, 2010

‘Chemical Ali’ goes to meet his maker

It is reported that Ali Hassan al-Majid (aka ‘Chemical Ali’) has been executed by hanging.

He was notoriously responsible for the gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988, in which around 5000 men, women and children were murdered. He was also implicated in the murder of thousands of Shi’a Muslims in the Sadr City district of Baghdad in 1999. His capacity for genocide and crimes against humanity puts him among the world’s most notorious tyrants. And now he has gone to meet Allah.

Cranmer is not in favour of the death penalty.

But not dogmatically so.

There are some who might deserve it.

When one has tortured, slaughtered and butchered so many innocent people, why should one not be executed?

Yet the state-sanctioned killing of people like ‘Chemical Ali’ pushes many on the Left to ideological consternation.

It has been said numerous times (whichever party is in power) that ‘the British government does not support the use of the death penalty (in Iraq or anywhere else). We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime.’

But today you will not hear much opposition in the UK to the hanging of ‘Chemical Ali’.

Is it because he is Muslim?

Or because his name has been rendered quite literally toxic?

It is a serious question.

If we were talking about the execution of Alistair Hardcastle, the Prime Minister would doubtless issue the usual condemnation. But we are concerned here with one Ali Hassan al-Majid.

And the sanctity of his life might not be quite so inviolable.

In the UK, the Left generally berate anyone on the Right who supports capital punishment: they are, quite naturally, 'extremist'. Yet the hypocrisy of the Left is manifest when most of them hold the morally vacuous position of opposing it domestically while justifying exemptions in other countries (usually by going Trappist).

Cranmer recalls Tony Blair’s silence on the news that Saddam Hussein had been hanged. With his typically inimitable ‘Third Way’ resolution of an otherwise intractable dichotomy, he appeared to simultaneously hold mutually-exclusive positions. Margaret Beckett said on his behalf:

I welcome the fact that Saddam Hussein has been tried by an Iraqi court for at least some of the appalling crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. He has now been held to account. We have made our position very clear to the Iraqi authorities, but we respect their decision as that of a sovereign nation.

It is a curious moral philosophy which can simultaneously welcome the fact that Ali Hassan al-Majid ‘has now been held to account’ whilst insisting that the United Kingdom, along with the rest of the European Union, opposes the death penalty in all circumstances.

Or are there exceptions?

Equality Bill: European Commission v the Church of Jesus Christ

Today, the House of Lords will debate the malignance and malevolence of religion in the nation’s benign, beneficial and benevolent politics. There are certain religious inequalities which need to be purged from the Equality Bill, in particular the amendment to permit sacred scriptures to be used in civil partnership ceremonies, and that to exempt religious organisations from the requirement not to discriminate in employment on grounds of sexuality.

And these amendments are unequal, for the former is concerned with rectifying an absurd infringement and offence against the conscience: it amounts to state censorship and an enforced division between the private realm of spiritual belief and the public realm of political policy. If consenting adults wish to read the Bible, the Qur’an, the Gita or the Upinishads as they make their vows, that should be a matter for them. We do not have a tradition of laïcité in the country, and the fundamentalist secularisation of society amounts to the systematic elimination of all religion from public life. Conservatives should see such a violation of conscience and property rights as utterly abhorrent.

This is not simply a matter for the Church: although, as the established faith of the nation, with 26 bishops sitting in the Upper House, it is overwhelmingly so. Yet the Labour peer, Waheed Alli, who is a gay Muslim, is more vocal than most of the bishops. He has tabled the amendment to permit the introduction of religious texts and language to same-sex civil partnerships.

Whatever one may think about civil partnerships, this is a matter of religious liberty and Lord Alli’s amendment should be supported. No single group ‘owns’ the Bible, and it is not for the State to decree when it may or may not be used. If it may legitimately be banned from the registry office, why not from Parliament itself?

The other amendment, however, is quite a different matter.

Hitherto, religious organisations have been exempt from employment equality legislation, especially that concerning gender and sexuality for ministers of religion. Thus the Roman Catholic Church has been free to perpetuate an exclusively-male priesthood, and practising (or inclined) homosexuals may be quite legally barred from seminary training, ordination and Christian ministry. Yet this is now under threat, and so Conservative peer, Detta O’Cathain, has proposed an amendment to permit continuing discrimination on grounds of sexuality.

Let us not pretend that there is unity among the religions, their various denominations, or even between believers with these communities: there is not. And yet what we are witnessing is a concerted attempt by the most fundamentalist anti-Christian government in centuries to subject Christian orthodoxy to the anti-Christian laws of the State. If the Church may no longer refuse employment to someone who lives contrary to the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics, it is difficult to see how it may legally refuse to marry divorcees, bless homosexual unions or excommunicate those who rebel against its traditions, teaching and authority. We are moving towards the State preventing a Roman Catholic school from dismissing its head teacher after he has ‘come out’, civil-partnered and converted to Islam.

It is not possible to sustain a distinct religious ethos if the State requires uniformity.

Unless it is within a mosque or a Muslim school, of course. For in the hierarchy of rights, ethnic/religious minorities are higher in the pecking order than the white Anglo-Saxon Christian types, and Peter Tatchell is yet to unite with Ekklesia, the British Humanist Association and the Trades Union Congress to nail his theses to the Mosque of England.

But let us not forget the fount of this iniquity, for Her Majesty’s Government is dancing to the tune of the European Commission. And there is more than a little obfuscation and confusion as a result of the Government’s duplicity in trying to serve two masters.

The Guardian notes that Churches say the government has assured them the equality bill will preserve their ‘special status’: "(The Equality Bill) will not change the existing legal position regarding churches and employment," the leader of the House of Lords, Lady Royall, told peers recently.

But the Guardian ‘has learned’ (they are a bit slow: Cranmer reported on this last November) that the European Commission has threatened the British Government with legal action unless the grounds on which religious groups could discriminate were narrowed. Existing UK law is, they aver, ‘too broad’.

(Well, narrow is the path...)

The Guardian observes: ‘The text of the document, which has not been made public until now, has led to criticisms that the government has told parliament and religious organisations that the law will remain the same, while assuring the EU the law would be strengthened.”

Cranmer is not sure why this should come as a surprise: it is precisely the same duplicitous strategy which has been deployed on all matters relating to the EEC/EC/EU since 1973. You tell Parliament one thing while negotiating another in Brussels; you reassure the public of their sovereignty while selling their birthright and doing precisely the opposite. And then, a decade later, it becomes apparent to all what has occurred, but it is too late to do anything about it, and, where there is conflict between the two jurisdictions, national law is subsumed to EU law.

The bishops of Winchester, Exeter and Chester have written: ‘The government have said that they share our view – that the current limited exemptions for organised religions are balanced and should not be further restricted. Yet they are proposing to modify them.’

Well, Your Graces, Your Eminences and Your Holiness, the wheel has come full circle.

The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have been complicit in the whole process of European integration since its inception: they have been content to be the ‘Soul for Europe’; willing accomplices and dogmatic advocates of political union. They have nurtured, nourished and encouraged it. They have affirmed, praised and exalted it.

Why, one may ask, have they helped to create the beast which is now intent on destroying the very foundations of their liberties?

If it profits a man nothing to give his soul even for the whole world, why has the Church abdicated its spiritual authority for a façade of privilege and 30 euros?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

‘Dimensions of Conservatism’ – Margaret Thatcher’s 1977 Iain Macleod Memorial Lecture

This will feed your souls more than ten thousand tedious sermons by compromised clerics and politically-correct prelates. Again, from the days when even British politicians dared to 'do God',

Iain Macleod was of the 'One Nation' mould of Conservatives, and served under Churchill, Eden and Macmillan. He was editor of The Spectator, and is credited with coining the word 'stagflation'. As Shadow Chancellor in 1967 helped to found the homeless charity Crisis. He died of a heart attack in 1970, at the age of 57.

Margaret Thatcher's memorial speech gives one of the greatest insights into her own theo-political worldview:

We honour the memory of Iain Macleod by continuing his life's work, the restoration of the Conservative heritage. Some of you here today will remember him; some will have come into politics after he was taken from us. So I shall begin by trying to sum up for you the essence of his contribution to Conservative politics. He was a great pragmatist in the true meaning of the word; he saw practice as the acid test, and principles as the motivating force.

He was the practical man par excellence precisely because his every thought and act were so firmly rooted in principle. So when we ask, as all of us do, what would Iain have done in these circumstances, it is to his underlying principles that we must turn first.

He was a Tory in that he saw himself as part of a continuous and growing Tory tradition going back three whole centuries to the dawn of parliamentary government in the aftermath of the civil war, and going forward into a future, presaging changes and challenges of equal magnitude. He was a Christian, for whom Tory politics were a part – a subordinate part – of a great commitment to the Good Life and service of God.

He was a national politician, who thought in terms of Britain's needs, ways, and wider contribution to the world, drawing ideas and solutions from the British context, and seeing the statesman's task as finding political solutions for urgent British problems.

It is to these dimensions of Conservatism, which he exemplified for us, that I shall devote this talk – a Tory, a British politician, a Christian.

Every generation must restate its values in light of present challenges, but also in light of past experience. There has never been greater need for us Conservatives to do so than there is today. For we have been in danger of allowing our thinking to be dominated by socialism to a point where we even define our own position in terms of how, where and why we differ from socialism and socialists. As though conservatism was primarily an alternative to socialism. This is a compliment that I for one refuse to pay this recent creed. For we are not just anti-socialists, nor primarily anti-socialists; our opposition to socialism is just one corner of our vision, in which what we are for sets the tone, not what we are against; what we are against stems from what we are for.

The Tory tradition long antedates not only socialism but also what the socialists call capitalism and I prefer to call free economy. To describe us as the party of free enterprise as opposed to state ownership would be misleading, although we believe in the vital contribution of free enterprise to a free and prosperous Britain and have good cause to fear the deadening effect of State ownership and control. For to pose our commitment to free enterprise as our main purpose and distinguishing mark would be to describe the whole in terms of one of its many parts.

Free enterprise has a place, an honoured place in our scheme of things, but as one of many dimensions. For Tories became Tories well before the modern concept of a free market economy meant anything, well before it became a matter of political controversy.

Conservatism will, I believe, continue to be a living growing creed long after economic controversy gives way to other issues, long, after socialism comes to be seen as one of the many blind alleys of history, of interest to the historian alone.

The Conservative Party is an integral part of the British tradition, not to be explained in abstract terms, but as part of the living flesh of British life over the generations. So let me begin today, as I learned to do with Iain's help, from a sense of shared history; not just Tory history, but British history.

For we are essentially a British party. We try to the best of our ability to understand Britain's problems and do what is good for Britain, while fulfilling our obligations as members of the world community. We observe what happens elsewhere, and draw lessons from it, but aware that different national traditions, experience and religious values must affect the social, political, and economic solutions.

We know that there are certain human needs and values, not simply material needs but human rights, dignity, freedom from fear. These should be accorded everywhere. But the further we proceed from these fundamentals to political and economic arrangements, the less competent we feel to do much more than pronounce success or failure.

Our sense of history imparts caution and humility on us. You will have noted how the socialist is happy to lay down the law for all mankind, past, present and future, giving marks, usually bad ones, convinced that he could have done much better. You will have noticed how they claim solidarity with socialist parties and regimes everywhere, in the name of human solidarity, while preaching hatred towards fellow British citizens of differing background or views.

You will have noted too how socialists consider themselves qualified to lay down what is good for all countries and societies, for the Chinese and the Chileans, Uruguayans and Paraguayans, South African and South Vietnamese, Anguilans and Angolans – and never does a shadow of self-doubt cross their closed little minds.

We beg to differ from them. First, I think it arrogant to claim that our generation is any wiser than previous generations. We are here, they are gone. We can stand on their shoulders, as I hope succeeding generations will be able to stand on ours. But we should not be too hasty in judging them, not simply because we shall be judged in turn, but because to judge requires so much knowledge, such an effort of imagination to put ourselves into their shoes that could well be spent – barring the professional historian on understanding our own pressing problems.

Least of all do we feel qualified to offer advice to more successful nations, on whose bounty this government's spendthrift measures have made us dependent.

But we are more than just a British party. The Tories began as a church party, concerned with the Church and State, in that order, before our concern extended to the economy, and many other fields which politics now touches.

Religion gives us not only values a scheme of things in which economic, social, penal policy have their place – but also our historical roots. For through the Old Testament our spiritual roots go back to the early days of civilisation and man's search for God.

The New Testament takes us on through Greek philosophy, Roman law, the Church Fathers and the great flowering of a specifically Christian civilisation in the middle ages from which our own characteristic way of life emerged.

Our religion teaches us that every human being is unique and must play his part in working out his own salvation. So whereas socialists begin with society, and how people can be fitted in, we start with Man, whose social and economic relationship are just part of his wider existence.
Because we see man as a spiritual being, we utterly reject the Marxist view, which gives pride of place to economics. However much the Marxists and their fellow-travellers new and old may try to wriggle and explain away, this was Marx's stated view and a linch-pin of his whole system.

The religious tradition values economic activity, how we earn our living, create wealth, but warns against obsession with it, warns against putting it above all else. Money is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.

The letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury (Donald Coggan) received in reply to his "call to the nation" were recently published. One of them was from a country vicar: "I am concerned," he wrote, "that I haven't enough to do my job properly. I am concerned because my parishoners, some of them at least, are not receiving what I ought to be able to provide and be glad to give them, i.e. a visit in emergencies, just because there is no petrol in the tank and no money in the pocket to buy more; or that there is petrol only sufficient to provide transport for my wife to work".

That vicar knew that he needed money, not for itself, but for what he could do with it.

The increased involvement of government with economic life has coincided with a marked worsening of economic performance.

It has heightened tensions between different groups of workers, some struggling to keep differentials, others trying to override them; between producers and consumers, landlords and tenants, public services and the public.

To observe these things is not to deny a role to government in economic life; it is not to preach laissez faire. That was preached two centuries back when manufacture and commerce were fighting to free themselves from state monopoly and interference which were holding back their development.

There is much that the state should do, and do much better than it is doing. But there are also proper limits which have long since been passed in this country.

To understand the reason and how these limits can be adduced, we must come back to the nature of man. This is a matter where our understanding and our case, based on religion and commonsense, is so much sounder than that of the socialist doctrine. Yet the socialist travesty has succeeded in gaining wide acceptance by default, even among our own people. I refer to the question of self-interest as against the common good. The socialists have been able to persuade themselves and many others that a free economy based on profit embodies and encourages self-interest, which they see as selfish and bad, whereas they claim socialism is based on and nurtures altruism and selflessness.

This is baseless nonsense in theory and in practice; let me explain why. Let us start from the idea of self. There is not and cannot possibly be any hard and fast antithesis between self-interest and care for others, for man is a social creature, born into family, clan, community, nation, brought up in mutual dependence. The founders of our religion made this a cornerstone of morality. The admonition: love they neighbour as thyself, and do as you would be done by, expresses this. You will note that it does not denigrate self, or elevate love of others above it. On the contrary, it sees concern for self and responsibility for self as something to be expected, and asks only that this be extended to others. This embodies the great truth that self-regard is the root of regard for one's fellows. The child learns to understand others through its own feelings. At first its immediate family, in course of time the circle grows.

Our fellow-feeling develops from self-regard. Because we want warmth, shelter, food, security, respect, and other goods for ourselves, we can understand that others want them too. If we had no desire for these things, would we be likely to understand and further others' desire for them?

You may object that saintly people can well have no personal desires, either material or prestigious; but we do not legislate for saints.

Now since people in their day-to-day lives are motivated by this complex of attitudes, self-regard and fellow-feeling, group and sectional interests, personal and family responsibility, local patriotism, philanthropy, an economy will be effective only insofar as it can contain and harness all these drives. Perhaps Archbishop Temple had it right when he said: "The art of Government, in fact, is the art of so ordering life that self interest prompts what justice demands."

Adam Smith, who came to economics via philosophy, (sociology – as we should now call it –) and history, described how the interplay between the self-interest of many can further the mutual interest of all. I urge you to read him, both for what he said and for what he did not say, but is often ascribed to him. He did not say that self-interest was good perse; he saw it as a major drive which can be a blessing to any society able to harness it and a curse to those who cannot harness it.

He showed how the market economy obliges and enables each producer to serve the consumers interest by serving his own.

People must be free to choose what they consume, in goods and services. When they choose through the market, their choice is sovereign. They alone exercise their responsibility as consumers and producers. To the extent that the fruits of their efforts are taken away by the state, or other coercive bodies, they not only have responsibility taken away from them, but the ability to make their wishes felt. Power accrues more and more to the politician, bureaucrat, state-owned or subsidised providers of goods and services.

Choice in a free society implies responsibility on the part of the individual. There is no hard and fast line between economic and other forms of personal responsibility to self, family, firm, community, nation, God. Morality lies in choosing between feasible alternatives. A moral being is one who exercises his own judgment in choice, on matters great and small, bearing in mind their moral dimension, i.e. right and wrong. Insofar as his right and duty to choose is taken away by the state, the party or the union, his moral faculties, i.e. his capacity for choice, atrophy, and he becomes a moral cripple in the same way as we should lose the faculty of walking, reading, seeing, if we were prevented from using them over the years.

In a letter from a person who responded to the Archbishop of Canterbury's "call to the nation," this point was beautifully put:

"We wish to be self-reliant and do not want to be dependent on the state, nor do we want the state to take so great a proportion of our money in rates and taxes to decide for us what we shall have and not have … I may be wrong, but I think it weakens character when little by little our freedom of choice is taken from us."

And another person said:

"I am a middle-aged woman, wife of a lower-paid worker. We have struggled through the years to buy our own house, old though it may be. We have asked for nothing. We only had one child, so no child allowance. What we have achieved we did ourselves. When we look round and see all the handouts people are getting from this welfare state, we sometimes feel so sad that what should be a wonderful thing has really turned out to sap the goodness and initiative from so many of our people.".

So let there be no mistake: economic choices have a moral dimension. A man is now enabled to choose between earning his living and depending on the bounty of the state, a choice which comes about because benefits rise and remain tax-free, while earnings rise more slowly if at all, and tax is high at very low income levels.

A man must choose between spending and saving, between housing himself or depending on the state to house him at his fellow-citizen's expense, between paying for his children's education and accepting whatever the state provides, between working for a wage or salary and setting up on his own, between longer hours of work or study and spending more time in leisure with his family, even between spending more of his money on himself and more on his family, between joining a union and not joining, even if it means persecution by union and state.

The Socialists would take away most or all of these choices. A man would do what he was told by the state and his union, work where work was "found" for him, at the rate fixed and degree of effort permitted. He would send his children to school where the education authority decided what the children are taught and the way they are taught, irrespective of his views, he would live in the housing provided, take what he could get, give what he was obliged to give.

This doesn't produce a responsible or a moral society.

This does not produce a classless society; on the contrary it produces the most stratified of all societies, divided into two classes: the powerful and the powerless; the party-bureaucratic elite and the manipulated masses.

And are these rulers better fitted to make choices on our behalf or to dispose of resources? Are they wiser, less selfish, more moral? What reason have we for supposing that they are? As the French economist and critic of socialism, Claude Frédéric Bastiat, asked a century and a half ago, how can the socialists, who have such a low opinion of the people's ability to choose have such a high regard for their own?

I quote his own words:

"Since the natural inclinations of mankind are so evil that its liberty must be taken away, how is it that the inclinations of the socialists are good? Are not the legislators and their agents part of the human race? Do they believe themselves moulded from another clay than the rest of mankind? They say that society, left to itself, heads inevitably for destruction because its instincts are perverse. They demand the power to stop mankind from sliding down this fatal declivity and to impose a better direction on it. If, then, they have received from heaven intelligence and virtues that place them beyond and above mankind, let them show their credentials. They want to be shepherds, and they want us to be their sheep."

We know from experience that these self-appointed guardians use their power to perpetuate it. We have seen how the economic considerations which in a market economy are decisive, are increasingly subordinated in a controlled economy to the party political interests of politicians, to the group interest of state employees, and to workers in some nationalised industries. We pay through the nose in prices and taxes and take what we are given. In that sense, we don't own those industries, they own us.

And have we not seen at home, and particularly abroad, how some socialist politicians soon come to adopt the very "ruling class life-styles" they rose to power by denouncing?
In a market economy, people are free to give of their money and their time for good causes. They exercise their altruism on their own initiative and at their own expense, whether they give directly and personally through institutions, charities, universities, churches, hospitals. When the state steps in, generosity is increasingly restricted from all sides.

From the one side, the idea is propagated that whatever needs doing is best done by the state.

Since the state knows best, causes it does not support must be of questionable worth. On the other side, since the state takes more and more of peoples earnings, they have less inclination to give what money they still have left for those needs which the welfare state fails to meet.
When people give, directly, personally or through an institution, they respect, they feel that the sacrifices they may make in giving, and the effort in earning is worth while. People have always accepted the responsibility to sustain the young and the old, the unfortunate and the needy. But when the money is taken away and spent by government, the blessing goes out of giving and out of the effort of earning in order to give.

This contrast is borne out by historical experience. The Victorian age, which saw the burgeoning of free enterprise, also saw the greatest expansion of voluntary philanthropic activity of all kinds. The new hospitals, new schools, technical colleges, universities, new foundations for orphans, non-profit making housing trusts, missionary societies.
Dr Barnardos Homes was founded in 1866. It cares today for 2251 children in residential accommodation.

The Soldiers, Sailors and Airmens Families Association was founded in 1885 and now, with 12,000 volunteer workers helps countless families.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children which now handles some 80,000 cases annually was founded in 1884.

The St John Ambulance Association was founded in 1877 to provide a service still essential to every centre of population.

The Church Army now giving help to 14,800 people, started in 1890.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution was founded in 1824 and now maintains 250 lifeboats at a cost of about £3 million a year, almost entirely from voluntary subscriptions.

The Victorian age has been very badly treated in socialist propaganda.

It was an age of constant and constructive endeavour in which the desire to improve the lot of the ordinary person was a powerful factor. We who are largely living off the Victorians moral and physical capital can hardly afford to denigrate them.

You may remember Lord Acton's aphorism that while only a foolish conservative would judge the present by the standards of the past, only a foolish liberal would judge the past by the standards of the present. There are many foolish liberals in the socialist camp; we can do without them in ours.

Why then, you may ask, did socialist thought make so much headway? It is not only a fair question but a vitally important one for us. There are many possible answers.

But one obvious reason stands out. Socialists criticised imperfect human reality in the name of a theory. So long as socialism was only a theory, it made criticism of other ways easy for them. They could claim that their way was best. But now we are beyond the days of theory. For decades Socialists have extended their power until they control almost half the world's population. How has the theory worked out in practice? Disastrously. Wherever they have imposed their heavy hand, people are worse off and less free.

A leading Labour Party ideologist, Baroness Wootton, recently said proudly that during her lifetime she was glad to see that one-third of the world's population had come to earn its daily bread under socialism.

Certainly, she made a brief reference to the fact that they seem to practice tyranny and racism but very much en passant. She neither stopped to ask whether this was not inherent in socialist rule, nor what the quality and quantity of socialism's daily bread was like. Not all Lady Wootton's fellow-socialists are as frank as she is in claiming the socialist world as soul-mates, and as encouragement for their efforts to clamp down socialism here "irrevocably and irreversibly", to use one of the present government's favourite phrases.

True, not all of the Labour Party are happy to accept Communist-ruled regimes as fellow-socialists. But they are remarkably muted in their opposition to the "fraternal relations" adopted by a majority of their Party and Trade Union movement. Insofar as some are embarrassed by the behaviour of their fellow-socialists in the Soviet Union, Cambodia and East Germany, they have yet failed to produce a coherent explanation of why they believe that a doctrine which has produced such visibly inhuman results in a third of the world or more would lead us to Utopia in Great Britain.

To say that the others are not "true socialists" – no connexion with the firm next door with the same name – gets us no further. Socialism is what socialists do, and socialists do more or less the same, as the opportunity permits.

GULAG was the consequence of socialism. It was not the work of one man. It only happened because socialism demoralised the whole nation, replaced the individual conscience by the party, right and wrong by what was good for the revolution.

But, as I argued earlier, we shall not win simply by showing the dark side of socialism. That is why I began with our vision, and put it in the centre of the stage. I stress, vision, not blueprint; values and principles, not doctrines. We are really in no better position to prophesy than preceding generations were, and they always got it wrong; the more scientific they thought they were, the further they strayed. For the unfolding of human history is richer and more complex than our minds can foresee.

Yet by understanding the present and the past and adducing possibilities and probabilities as best we can, so long as we leave some margin for error, we can influence the shape of things to come.

We have learned much from the over-optimism of the immediate post-war era, when we thought Government could do it all. We need healthy scepticism, but not pessimism. We are not bound to an irrevocable decline.

We see nothing as inevitable. Men can still shape history.

Because the post-war Keynesian recipe of endless growth and full employment through high demand levels went sour, this does not mean we turn our backs on the aspirations which underlay the 1944 White Paper on Employment policy. Because we see that welfare can be abused, we do not neglect our responsibility to help people back onto their feet and to look after the handicapped.

We know that we must assure a better balance between what people receive and what they can earn, and between the hardship we see and are moved to mitigate through the welfare system and the reaction we create when taxes fall too heavily on the tax payer.

This is a turning-point in our party's history, no less than in our nation's, comparable to the situation when Iain Macleod came back into civilian life after the war. He and his generation's views had been formed under the combined influence of their heavy war-time responsibilities, the high hopes for post-war Britain generated during the war, and the stock of our electoral defeat in 1945.

Iain let none of these put him off-balance. He set to work with others of his generation to pick up the pieces, to begin from where they were. He and the "One Nation" group set the tone for much of post-war Conservative thought and action. They did not blame their stars, or the voters. They set to work to ask what had gone wrong, and how to put it right.

That was a generation back. We now stand before the new challenges: how to revive the economy, how to enlarge our liberties, how to restore the balance between trade unions and the community, how to further our European partnership while protecting legitimate British interests, how to simplify the welfare maze which often baffles those who most deserve help, how to regain an underlying sense of nationhood and purpose.

Circumstances in the late ‘seventies are different from those of thirty years ago. Once again we have faced electoral defeat, drawn the necessary conclusions and come back with renewed vigour.

Iain Macleod's approach then was, in essence; if it must be done it can be done; if it can be done it must be done. "We shall prevail" — one of his great speeches ended. We did; and we shall.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Joint Committee on Human Rights says Act of Settlement breaches European Convention on Human Rights

Well, we need no 'influential committee' of the Houses of Parliament awoken from slumber to tell us this.

It is known because it is plain, clear, defined, self-evident, overt, disclosed, admitted, undisguised, unconcealed and unashamedly pronounced.

The Head of State is the Monarch, and the Monarch is Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England may not be a Roman Catholic or married to one. That is the Constitution of the United Kingdom.

Yet this cross-party parliamentary committee on human rights has said that the laws barring members of the Royal Family from marrying Roman Catholics is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. They also say the laws of male primogeniture in which male heirs take precedence may also be in breach of the Convention.

And so they have urged the Government to adopt proposals put forward by Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris (supported by some Roman Catholic MPs and a few meddlesome priests) to remove religious discrimination against Roman Catholics in relation to royal marriages and discrimination against women in relation to the succession.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons last year that ‘most people recognise the need for change’ in the regime put in place by the 1701 Act of Settlement. However, he said no change could be made without the agreement of the other Commonwealth countries of which the Queen is head of state.

No progress on reform is understood to have been made at the Commonwealth heads of government summit in Trinidad last November.

According to the all-party committee, discrimination against Roman Catholics in the laws of marriage is ‘contrary’ to Article 14 of the ECHR, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, in conjunction with Article 12, which provides a right for men and women to marry. The committee states that it was also ‘arguably contrary’ to the freedom of religion of Roman Catholics protected by Article 9.

In relation to male primogeniture in the law of inheritance, the committee said it was ‘in our view arguably contrary’ to Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 Protocol 1.113.

In its report, the Joint Committee on Human Rights suggested: ‘On the basis of human rights principles, we recommend that the Government agree to the amendments tabled by Dr Harris on these issues.’

What they fail to realise (if, indeed they understand anything of theo-politics at all), is that those who campaign to end the ban on a Roman Catholic monarchy by focusing on the Act of Settlement are on an ineffectual wild goose chase. That Act was passed by the old English parliament, which ceased to exist in 1707. The Act was also arguably incompetent, since the English parliament could not unilaterally decide on the British Regal Union of 1603-1707. The Scottish parliament recognised this fact, and deliberately countered the Act of Settlement with a Scottish settlement Act - the Act of Security of 1704.

The Act of Settlement 1701 was superseded by the Treaty of Union 1707, which, in Article 2, also prohibits Roman Catholics ascending the Throne of the United Kingdom. The Treaty of Union 1707 is the founding charter of the United Kingdom. Tamper with this, and the Union is imperilled.

It has been observed that Scottish unionist politicians do not want this truth out. They fear making Scots aware that the United Kingdom is the creature of a treaty between two equal parliaments: a living, legal document, capable of amendment and adjustment to contemporary needs.

These are the unspoken ‘constitutional ripples’ so feared by Donald Dewar. This is why successive prime ministers of the United Kingdom and unionist Scottish secretaries of state have no intention of ending the ban on the Monarch either being a Roman Catholic or married to one, and why they are quite happy to let historically-ignorant and politically-ill-informed people like Dr Evan Harris continue harping on about the Act of Settlement 1701.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Geert Wilders addresses the court in his political show trial

If one cannot say that the Islam is a backward religion, or that Mohammad was a criminal, or defame the Qur'an even by placing it on the bottom shelf of a public library, then one is living in an Islamic country.

Especially when one is free to say that Christianity is composed of nothing but fantasies and fairytales, to desecrate the Bible with filth and pornography, or say that Jesus was gay, fantasised about sex with prostitutes, or (if he existed at all) was a fraud and a liar.

Here is a transcript of Geert Wilders' opening speech as he is prosecuted for 'incitement to hatred', 'discrimination', and 'insulting Muslims'. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 15 months in prison.

Since participating in public debate has become a dangerous activity, it may not be too long before we see similiar trials in the UK (O, hang on...).

There is a very real sense in which Geert Wilders speaks for the liberties of us all:

Mr. President, members of the court, I would like to only use a few minutes of my right to speak.

And I would like to begin by saying that of all our attainments, freedom is the most precious and most vulnerable. It is what people have dedicated their lives to and what people have given their lives for. Our freedom in this country is the fruit of centuries. It is the result of a history that has no equal and has brought us to where we are today.

I believe with all my heart and soul that the freedom is threatened in the Netherlands. That heritage, which generations could only dream of, is precisely this freedom which is no longer a given fact, no longer a matter self-evidence.

I dedicate my life to defending our freedom. I know what the risks are and I every day again, pay the price for that. I do not complain about it; it is my own decision. I see it as my duty and therefore I am standing here today.

I know that the words I use are sometimes tough, but they are never reckless. It is not my intention to spare the ideology of conquest and destruction, but neither do I intend to offend people.

I have nothing against Muslims. I have a problem with the Islam and the Islamization of our country because Islam is at right angles to freedom.

Future generations will wonder how we, in 2010, at this location, in this room, served our most precious asset. Whether the freedom is for both sides in this debate and thus also for Islam-critics. Or whether in the Netherlands only one side of the debate may be heard. Whether freedom of speech in the Netherlands applies to everyone, or only to some.

The answer to that is immediately also the answer to the question whether freedom still has a home in this country.

Freedom has but never been owned by a small group, but has always been the heritage of us all. We have all been blessed by it.

Lady Justice wears a blindfold, but she can hear perfectly well, she can listen perfectly well. And I hope she, Lady Justice, will hear the following phrases sound, loud and clear:

"It is not only the right, but also the duty of free people to speak out against any ideology that threatens freedom."

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was right:

"The price for freedom is eternal vigilance."

I hope with all I have in me that freedom of expression in this trial will prevail. Not only that I will be acquitted, but that the freedom of speech will continue to exist.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, members of the court. In this trial it of course is about the freedom of expression. But in this trial it is certainly also about finding the truth. The statements I have made, the comparisons I have drawn — are they true? As mentioned in the summons? Because if something is true, how can it be illegal?

Therefore I ask you strongly not only to grant my request for the hearing of witnesses and experts in the field of freedom of speech. But I also ask you explicitly to honor my requests for the hearing of witnesses and experts on the field of Islam, all in full publicity. I hereby am not only referring to the gentleman Jansen and Admiraal but also on the expert witnesses from Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries. Preferably, all.

I must have the ability to defend myself. I must prove you that I have spoken the truth, please do not obstruct me from that. Because without these witnesses, I cannot defend myself well and in my view it will be out of the question that this is a fair trial.

Thank you.

Anglicans and Methodists unite to ‘challenge Islamophobia’

A guest post from His Grace’s curate:

Could anyone have predicted 20 years ago that moves towards the institutional convergence of Anglicans and Methodists would result in an alliance to combat specifically 'Islamaphobia'? One wonders what John Wesley and George Whitefield would have made of the following job advert:

Sheffield Methodist District
Challenging Extremism in South Yorkshire
This is a new project, funded by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, to challenge Islamaphobia, racism and divisive politics.
We wish to recruit: Project Manager - Full time, salary £35,000
To lead the project, develop its work, and build strong and broad partnerships
Communications Officer - 0.6 FTE, salary £27,000 pro rata
To develop consistent key messages and build communications capacity in the community.

The application pack is said to be available from an e-mail address at the Anglican Diocese of Sheffield. The employer is thus the Sheffield Methodist District with the Diocese of Sheffield having placed the advert. So, two Christian denominations are closely involved in the organisation of these two secular-funded roles which are not restricted to professing Christians and are clearly aimed at the wider community.

The questions raised by this for the Church's mission are far from trivial.

What place does challenging 'Islamaphobia' have in the Church's mission? If 'Islamaphobia' is defined as a refusal to show Christian love and hospitality towards Muslims with whom Christians ought to be sharing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, then it certainly deserves to be challenged.

But that is not the politically-correct definition of 'Islamaphobia'. In fact, the orthodox doctrine of the Church of England would have to be branded 'Islamaphobic' according to PC criteria. Article 18 of the 39 Articles of Religion - Of Obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ - pronounces 'accursed' those who claim that people can be saved by the 'Law or Sect' that they profess: 'Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved,' it affirms.

Furthermore, this PC-defined form of extremism is to be challenged in the wider non-Christian community who have no interest in Christian evangelism and little commitment to biblical authority. Thus, it would seem that the Church, with funding from the State, is getting involved in preaching PC morality to the community rather than the gospel.

Challenging racism is clearly something the Church must engage in - racism is a barrier to the gospel and is a profoundly unloving attitude, unworthy of Christians. That is why I (His Grace’s curate) personally support the ban on clergy being members of the British National Party: membership of a racist political party intrinsically constitutes conduct unbecoming.

But surely challenging racism where it is found is part of the role of front-line clergy engaged in evangelism in their communities. The cost of the project manager approximates to that of a full-time minister deployed in a parish, and the cost of the communications officer to that of a youth worker. Should the Church be involved in deploying secular-funded central staff dedicated not only to challenging racism but also 'Islamaphobia' as apparently defined by PC criteria and 'divisive politics'?

Surely in a democracy politics is inherently divisive - people are allowed to vote for different parties and debate the issues freely and disagree openly: one is permitted to divide along party lines.

Furthermore, is not 'Christianaphobia' as great if not a greater problem now in British society than ‘Islamaphobia’, and of more immediate concern to Christian organisations such as the Sheffield Methodist District and the Diocese of Sheffield? What about the situation faced by Christians in the public sector suspended or fired from their employment simply for offering to pray with clients or for saying 'God bless'?

What about the situation faced by Christian street preachers accused of hate speech simply for affirming the Bible's teaching?

What about the situation faced by confessing Anglicans who wish to uphold the doctrine of the Church of England?

There is no doubt that an Anglican-Methodist partnership led by John Wesley and George Whitefield would have spent the money on a full-time evangelist - even if that meant losing the grant from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire. His weblog is Cranmer's Curate
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