Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Which God will the Coalition ‘do’?

When David Cameron dismissed all talk of Britain’s secularism as ‘exaggerated’, and dismissively said that such comment ‘misses the point’, he could hardly have expected to find himself swiftly at loggerheads with the Pope himself, who is of the undoubted opinion that the United Kingdom is not only increasingly godless, but subject to a rather ‘aggressive secularism’.

And by saying so His Holiness evidently does not believe that he ‘misses the point’.

But this is not some profound Church / State dichotomy, and neither is it a major Prime Minister / Pope disputation of ‘Cameron accuses Pope of exaggerating and missing the point’ mould. Yet it is an important disparity in perception between a Coalition which purports to ‘do God’ fervently and a Church which feels increasingly marginalised in a context which has become hostile to much Christian expression after 13 years of some quite insidious equality legislation.

Both Pope and Prime Minister acknowledge that the UK strives to be ‘a modern and multicultural society’, and neither would doubt that this is indeed a ‘challenging enterprise’.

But while David Cameron talks ecumenically of generalised ‘faith’ and a multi-faith ‘God’, Pope Benedict talks of the need to respect the ‘traditional values and cultural expressions’. He is acutely aware that Mary’s Dowry, now Protestant by law and multi-faith in expression, has turned away from her ‘traditional values and cultural expressions’; that under the premierships of two ostensibly professing Christians, we have seen Christianity relegated to the peripheries of public life.

Bishops of both the Church of England and the Church of Rome have expressed their concern at the hostile culture which seemingly has no tolerance of Christian orthodoxy.

By denying even the existence of ‘the more aggressive forms of secularism’, the Prime Minister may be dangerously blind to that which no longer values or even tolerates the Christian faith from which the liberties of this country and its traditions of liberal democracy have evolved.

The Pope reminded the assembled Commons, Lords and civic leaders in Westminster Hall that Britain has a ‘great history of anti-Catholicism’, but that it is also ‘a country with a great history of tolerance’.

But instead of building upon the benign Anglican via media, the historic anti-Catholicism has mutated into a wholesale malignant anti-Christianity: Richard Dawkins has become a letter-day Ian Paisley, and Christianity is now the faith which dare not speak its name.

So when Conservative Party Chairman Baroness Warsi says, on behalf the Coalition, that the new Government ‘understands’ faith and wanted religious groups to play a greater and more prominent role in Britain, what is it that they understand which the Roman Catholic Blair and Presbyterian Brown did not?

The vocabulary is the same as any religio-political pap used on Songs of Praise. The Baroness talks of ‘the positive power of faith’, and bends over backwards to proclaim that the Coalition ‘does God’. The Prime Minister said that the Pope’s visit provided a ‘unique opportunity’ to celebrate the work of all religious groups.

So, the Coalition is on the side of religion.

Baroness Warsi proclaimed that the country needs a government which ‘understands faith, which is comfortable with faith, and which, when necessary, is prepared to speak out about issues of faith’.

And she explained to the gathered bishops of the Church of England: "Under our plans, you will have more power, more responsibility, and more choice over how to get involved in your communities and over how to apply your skills. I don't just want to say to you that you have a lot to contribute to building the Big Society. I want to tell you that for me you are at the heart of society already and key to its future, and that this government will be on your side."

Her message was to all faiths, yet her audience consisted of Anglican bishops.

Will the 'more power' of which she speaks grant them once again the freedom to employ whomsoever they wish in their churches? Or will the inexorable equality agenda march on?

The Baroness criticised Labour’s approach to religious faith – that of ‘eccentricity’ practised by ‘oddities’ – but her observation that ‘behind every faith-based charity, they sensed the whiff of conversion and exclusivity’ is illuminating in the context of the forced closure of Catholic adoption agencies.

Will the Coalition redress this imbalance? Will it brush aside the equality legislation which equates Christian conversion with abuse, prayer with hatred and heterosexuality with homophobia?

Baroness Warsi says that ‘because of these prejudices’ Labour ‘didn't create policies to unleash the positive power of faith in our society’.

So will the Coalition repeal the legislation which legitimises these prejudices?

How otherwise will they ‘unleash the positive power of faith in our society’?

And yet what is this ‘faith’ that they seek to unleash?

Perhaps we already have the answer.

It will not be a robustly orthodox expression of any faith.

Except, perhaps Buddhism.

For in robust Buddhism lies an oxymoron.

The Coalition will do ‘moderate’ Islam, benign Hinduism, relaxed-about-the-Five-Ks Sikhism, liberal Judaism and Tablet Catholicism.

Because these are closest to David Cameron’s broad-church Anglicanism. He said just before the General Election that he does not drop to his knees and pray for guidance: "My own faith is there, it's not always the rock that perhaps it should be. I've a sort of fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments."

To admit any more runs the risk of being perceived as a ‘nutter’.

His understanding of the relationship between faith and society and between religion and politics is not always thought through – and he now has the additional tension of sharing power with an atheist – but Nick Clegg’s brand of atheism is not the offensively ‘aggressive’ type, but one which can marry a Roman Catholic, permit his children to be brought up in that faith and can ‘do God’ fairly because he does not approach faith ‘with a closed heart or a closed mind’.

Unlike the Unholy Trinity of the cerebral father Richard Dawkins, the androgynous son Stephen Fry , and the sylph spirit Peter Tatchell.

Britain's faith communities are indispensable to social progress. David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ will not get big without them.

But Social Justice is not simply about praxis in the public sphere; it is not just about 'liberating' Christians to tackle the root causes of poverty and deprivation by providing (for example) children with good school places, getting alcohol and drug-dependent adults back into work, running sheltered housing for older people, or finding homes for children and teenagers who need fostering and adoption.

It is also about permitting the freedom of conscience and expression from which the praxis flows.

Labour's equality legislation violated the Christian ethos of the nation.

It will take a little more than ‘a fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments’, to reassert the nation’s Christian culture and traditions. One cannot confront aggressive, totalitarian, secularist intolerance by turning the other cheek.


Blogger Graham Davis said...

An interesting post Cranmer, needless to say I am of a differing opinion particularly when freedom of conscience confronts general human rights. To take an extreme example the prospect of Sharia courts may be a conscience issue for some Muslims but would result in the human rights of women (and Gays) being violated.

22 September 2010 at 13:01  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

Amen, YG.

But if we are to avoid the inevitable conflicts that Mr Davis points out, ultimately our leaders - and our nation - must have an Elijah & Mount Carmel moment: "“How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent."

We must decide which God we will serve.

22 September 2010 at 13:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still think that intrinsically, politicians follow the God of Mammon.

I have no evidence to think otherwise, politicians of all hues become detached from real life and live in the bubble of their own making. They cosy up to the rich and influential, whaever their religious professions - all of who are married to mammon.

Our last Parliament and Government displayed this to all of us through the expenses crisis. They still cry innocent and cannot see what they did was wrong.

The Banking crisis, driven through lack of regulation and greed, is not solely the fault of bankers. Successive governments must bear their share of the blame.

HSBC led by an Anglican NSM Priest did not require government assistance - I wonder why? Could it possibly be due to a different culture operating there?

David Cameron is as blind as the rest of the politicians - his brand of Consumer faith is one of the issues the Church needs to overcome if it is to grow and not decline further.

22 September 2010 at 14:00  
Blogger Richard Brown said...

Graham Davis - exactly who does the National Secular Society (so beloved of the BBC) speak for, apart from its miniscule membership of 5000 or so?

22 September 2010 at 14:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace

Brilliant analysis and well expressed.

‘One cannot confront aggressive, totalitarian, secularist intolerance by turning the other cheek.’

Indeed: evil demands confrontation.

Evil does not permit men to walk away from it. It seeks them.

You ask the question: ‘So will the Coalition repeal the legislation which legitimises these prejudices?’

In your article ‘Welcoming the Pope to the United Kingdom’ (Wednesday, September 15, 2010) you wrote:

‘[T]he genesis of this Godlessness is the spawn of the European Union which repudiates true religion and admits of no divinity but itself.’

EU Framework Directive 2000/78/EC imports the federals’ imposition of the promotion of ‘sexual orientation’; transposed into UK law through Statutory Instrument 2003/1661. The Equality Act 2010 extends this to new areas of economic activity: provsion of services whether for payment or not.

In this country, soon, there will be nowhere left for Christians to run except abroad or the social security benefit office.

‘So will the Coalition repeal the legislation which legitimises these prejudices?’


So what is to become of us? Whither are we to go?

22 September 2010 at 14:43  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Richard Brown said

Graham Davis - exactly who does the National Secular Society (so beloved of the BBC) speak for, apart from its miniscule membership of 5000 or so?


And my own organisation the Cambridge Secular Society even less.

The NSS punches above its weight. Influence is not only about numbers. Fortunately for you secularism protects your right to practice your faith, stops you from being overwhelmed by a competing belief system as well as protecting me from the tyranny of either.

22 September 2010 at 15:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The God that lives in Brussels, byt the looks of this afternoon's breaking news...

22 September 2010 at 17:00  
Anonymous Curious said...

Does being a Christian mean having your hands tied behind your back while someone beats you up?

22 September 2010 at 17:19  
Anonymous Preacher said...

Your Grace.
With all the talk of 'unity' I'm still trying to work out how the CofE can cosy up to the church of Rome whilst the latter still holds sacred the mumbo jumbo that has enslaved many seekers after truth for decades & shows no sign of changing its position "Always the Same" hmm, mayb the EU flag with its circle of stars that represent "The Queen of Heaven" has some influence & this is the reason that Mr Ratzinger has graced us with a visit, to select a plump Anglican Christmas Turkey perhaps? The sooner the protestant church regardless of its labels preaches the gospel & leaves the faithless to utter its mindless rhetoric about unity, dare I say synchretism at any price, the better. Has anyone any better answer for the current desire for the wholesale camel swallowing that is going on in the name of Unity?

22 September 2010 at 17:50  
Blogger Mike A said...

I have forgotten my manners, Your Grace; welcome back. Aren't these discussions fascinating?

Thus Madison's 'Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments' of 1785: "The Religion .. of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. The same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christianity in exclusion of all other sects. Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace .. the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us."

It is only a system of government which refrains from embracing any particular faith which can guarantee both Your Grace's ability to profess his, and my ability to profess atheism. I fear however that we are close to indiscriminately allowing any and all faiths some vague sort of validity and thus influence.

22 September 2010 at 17:51  
Blogger Preacher said...

Not Yet!

22 September 2010 at 17:55  
Anonymous len said...

I guess if your reject the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as many in religion and the secular World have done you will get the only alternative ....the god of this world.

Which strangely enough is what seems to be happening.......

22 September 2010 at 18:30  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

Curious has a point Your Grace.

It is bad enough trying to get young people interested in faith, and considering the places that they would have to go in order to make first contact here in the UK, I find it hardly surprising.

This continual nit-picking is enough to make a boy scout piss on his own fire though.

By the way Len, which church do you attend? Just out of curiosity that is.

22 September 2010 at 18:41  
Anonymous Philip said...

“But Social Justice is not simply about praxis in the public sphere; it is not just about 'liberating' Christians to tackle the root causes of poverty and deprivation by providing (for example) children with good school places, getting alcohol and drug-dependent adults back into work, running sheltered housing for older people, or finding homes for children and teenagers who need fostering and adoption.

It is also about permitting the freedom of conscience and expression from which the praxis flows.

Labour's equality legislation violated the Christian ethos of the nation.”

So will Mr Cameron and the Coalition “brush aside” equality and other legislation that “legitimises” “prejudice” against Christianity? No of course not. Mr Cameron prefers to seek support of homosexual activists and to please the EU (where at least some of this legislation originates). He supported Labour’s move against the RC adoption agencies, wants homosexuality taught in schools as normal as heterosexual marriage and the CofE to have full equality for homosexuals – presumably this means practicing homosexuals as vicars and bishops regardless of centuries-old Christian truth on the matter..

22 September 2010 at 20:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In order for us Christians to do our work, tolerance is enough.
We thrive (or should do) on persecution, but we cannot do much then.
The last Labour government used scorn and snidy tactics to stop us and did it very well too. If just that comes to an end it will really help.

23 September 2010 at 07:13  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Why, Your Grace, they'll chose Azzhaat, the god of stupidity of course.

23 September 2010 at 07:42  
Blogger ENGLISHMAN said...

What have we come to ,when a token muslim foreigner can expound what kind of religion we the indigenous population can be allowed to have,she can patronise as much as she likes back where she comes from,but here we can clearly see the purpose of her statement"want religious groups to play a greater and more prominent role in britain"and we know full well which "religious group"she wishes to play a more prominent role ,and it is not Christianity.As always christ said turn the other cheek,he did not say crawl on your belly and become a foreigners slave.

23 September 2010 at 08:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We all know which ‘faith’ and which ‘god’ the so-called ‘Baroness’ Warsi “understands” and “wants to play a greater and more prominent role in Britain”.

23 September 2010 at 10:19  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Fireman, why are you spamming this site?

23 September 2010 at 15:40  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Are you a Saxon, Angle or Jute?

23 September 2010 at 16:09  
Blogger john in cheshire said...

Doesn't being a Christian mean believing in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost? If so, then Christians in England should not be promoting any other version of religion. The muslim god is not our God. Some may wish to tolerate muslims and islam but none of us can in all conscience assist in the promotion of a religion and a god that is antithetical to all of our Christian beliefs. The sooner our politicians understand that then the sooner we can return to our upward path of development. Until then, the path is downward into atavism. And I don't want to live in a third world country.

23 September 2010 at 16:31  
Anonymous not a machine said...

One of your graces many carefully thought posts rings in my mind often when I find myself in the darkness of politics truths and lies . "jesus refused to raise arms"

It is very difficult indeed to see the power of this ,more so when your own faith seems to be subjected to agressive atheism or lesser works .
Your graces resolute understanding of this meaning wrapped within the cruxifiction seems all to weak when logical arguments come to bear , in some ways violence is a result of failiure .
It is an interesting thought that god is bigger than any church organsation .
If both Roman Catholics and protestants pray unto the same god , father son and holy ghost , then god perhaps would be rather dissapointed that basic pastoral needs have been lost in some rather bitter infighting .
The coalition causes me more trouble than the warmth of the Holy see and the Bishop of Canterbury.
Quite where the pride resided that caused the divison in the first place becomes irrelevent when you have some belief that a return to being able to sit together for prayer may be a lesson from god and thus both men are simoultainiously servants , which is remarkable .

I do not of course back bland warm faith gatherings posing as populist solutions to civic lack of theology .

I dont think David Cameron is rev Ian Paisley nor is he the Pope .It is perhaps best to take our respective communions/service but look forward to how this new dialogue may bring us somthing that has been out of reach/understanding.

24 September 2010 at 04:14  
Anonymous len said...

Do Catholics and Protestants pray to the same God?
Do Muslims pray to the same god or Hindu`s or Buddhists,or New Ager`s.
Does it really matter which 'god' you pray to?.
I would suggest that it matters to God!
There are many'garden paths ' to go up but there is only one narrow path that leads to the God of Abraham ,Isaac, and Jacob.
Jesus Christ said" I am the Way".

There is a great divide between Catholic and Protestant theology and Catholicism has always( right from the beginning) desired to conquer and subjugate anyone protesting to religion as promoted by the Roman Church ,initially by force lately by more subtle means.

(Ellen White describes this on- going conflict in her book'The
Great Controversy'in some detail,of course there are many others)

(Does the real battle for truth come from without ie the secular world, or is the enemy within the 'church?')

24 September 2010 at 08:09  
Anonymous not a machine said...

well yes Len , but what if there is failing between the churches that we have been in darkness about . As for the other faiths I prefer to think they have only described one of the senses in there descriptions . The cruxifiction poses a very solid basis for contemplating what the way is .
In my early christian journey I wa part of a "new" happy clappy church which made much gusto about not being like the "old" churches , it took me some time to see how problematic there new media rich church was , whilst there outreach success was undeniable , it had a curious grip whch I began to see lacked any humble aspects of the older churches indeed it became so highly politcally charged , that some ideas were lost completely , and it had its own gravity which was conflicted with , the deepening of gods relationship

24 September 2010 at 17:44  
Anonymous len said...

Not a machine,
I started off,so to speak, in the Anglican Church,baptised ,confirmed etc. But I was a 'churchgoer'with no real knowledge of what it was all about, and eventually left bored and disinterested in the meaninglessness of religious ritual and ceremony( which is all it ever really was to be honest)And I believe this is the reason many are leaving and have left churches.
(It could also be the reason conversely why some stay in churches because they like the ritual, the pomp,and the ceremony!)

I then became an'aggressive Atheist'.

Then one of my relatives became a ' born again' Christian and I was astonished and curious about the transformation in her.After months of searching and questioning I had a revelation of the risen Lord Jesus Christ( no I am not a nutter)
So that is why I attack the meaningless of religious ritual and those who promote it, anything which takes away our focus on Jesus Christ is a distraction at best. Religion in so many cases, and in so many churches stands as a barrier to Christ.

24 September 2010 at 19:24  
Anonymous not a machine said...

Len : I dont think we should forget that services were often geared to teach the illiterate , pick any Wesley hym you want and you can see him ministering to the poor.
I understand what you mean , by just seeing the ritual and the formal silence/reserved pose , however I would add that the basics are still present in the credo and the lords prayer has tremendous meaning .
the problem is perhaps how more of the world has changed and us along with it .Can anyone honestly imagine life without the TV or radio or sunday shopping we are many generations on from those sermons which said that the box in the corner of the room would subvert our relationship with god .
Indeed we live in world of so many images other than the word and our own imagination , it perhaps no coincidence that many have gone into church and wondered what on earth was going off , an understanding has been lost as other things occupy our minds .
There are still some monastic orders , but we claim to take the popular view that they are somehow small minded as they do not make sense of the world in the same way that most of us now do .

I had the chance to thank my minister for keeping up what my fathers had known , the incense the knave reading the curious nodding and holy signs , for in it I found the remnants of the request to love god , with our minds as tool , a sort of request to seek him , weekly , being carefull/thoughtfull in his presence , even though sometimes I was not really sure if he was there .

I am sure Len you know when a sincere prayer has been answered , I find the the sincerity a challenge these days in part because so much else vies with it and fail to get key into lock , so to speak , in many ways I greatly miss the reverence and deep love with which these services used to resonate , We have perhaps absorbed so much light entertainment that we are becoming it .

24 September 2010 at 22:58  
Anonymous len said...

Not a Machine Thanks for your reply. By way of an explanation perhaps I should explain why I am anti-religion(of any sort )
I have spent ears looking for a formula to'live the Christian life'
I have accumulated numerous books on theology and books on the 'how to 'theories.
All to no avail! Can anyone'live a life acceptable to God.The answer is quite emphatically no!
Jesus Himself explained that everything He did was through the Power of the Indwelling Holy Spirit.If Jesus relied entirely on the Holy Spirit should we expect to do better?
This Life through the Holy Spirit is a gift from God(through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ) and cannot be re-produced by religion or works of any sort.God said" I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.(Ezekiel 11.19)
Man trying to reproduce the life of God through religion is a pathetic travesty and doomed to failure.
One thing that religion cannot do is produce life and there is an air of death that hangs over many of our churches.

25 September 2010 at 07:48  
Anonymous non mouse said...

"One cannot confront aggressive, totalitarian, secularist intolerance by turning the other cheek." Some responses to Your Grace show how very right you are.

The atheists (agnostic extremists?) are too ignorant to recognise the literal levels of any Christian allegory, and too arrogant to care whether their tactic of ignorance is 'unclean.' Hubris blinds them further to the quality of any intelligence that opposes them -they cannot admit the inequality of their own.

They thus pretend that 'turning the other cheek' is defeatism. They sneer at our perceived weakness, while taking advantage of the freedom to do so; and they 'incite' others to "vade et tu fac similiter."

Someone asks above what we are to do. I agree with Your Grace that "Britain's faith communities are indispensable to social progress" - and would add that Christianity has long 'underpinned' such progess, especially through education. How, indeed, can we restore that foundation?

I believe the first step is to reject the euSSR; but I also suggest that, having identified the nature of the battle as ideological, we should continue to fight against the master of our enemy - against today's manifestation of antiChrist: marxist-leninist-communism.

So to hold our home ground? "Lefty-librul" infiltration of the Church of England is apparent in the rhetoric of many sermons today; so why not start by developing both communal and academic challenges that address the deconstruction of rhetoric- actually, or our very language? I've found, on the individual level, that such challenge evokes intensely passionate response, not to mention the knee-jerk 'ad hom.' I've hit a nerve, then; and the disordered reflex provides further support of my diagnosis ...

25 September 2010 at 17:57  
Blogger Oswin said...

Manfarang @ 23/10

For the answer to your question see ''The Origins of the British'' by Stephen Oppenheimer. His research into the genetic make-up of us Brits will soothe any quandary.

29 September 2010 at 17:58  

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