Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mandelson praises the Coalition: the theology of ecumenical politics




When the Liberal-Conservative Coalition was forged (and with a not irregular frequency since), there was talk of a re-alignment of British politics. There is, we are told, so much upon which the two parties agree that the Cameron-Clegg partnership feels as though it is more natural and conducive to the common good than (say) a Cameron-Carswell partnership: that Cameron’s doctrine is liberal conservatism and Clegg’s is conservative liberalism, so let them get on with it.

And now Lord Mandelson is trying to get in on the act, claiming that certain coalition policies are Blairite hallowed ground and that New Labour was the genesis.

And he is, of course, quite right.

England does not do revolution, in either the political or religious realms: while Europe was revelling in bloody revolutions, England’s was relatively bloodless, even glorious; while Europe’s Reformation took ecclesiology and theology from one extreme to the other, England’s was the perfect via media. Her natural disposition is for reform that is gradual, incremental, always in accord with Burkean organic principles.

So please don’t expect a political earthquake tomorrow announcing a seismic merger between the New Labour Blairite rump, ‘Orange Book’ Liberal Democrats or ‘Big Society’ Conservatives.

But His Grace is damned if he can put much of hair’s breadth between them.

They all favour prioritising the eradication of the nation’s £1trillion debt and addressing the fiscal deficit.

They all favour welfare reform.

They are all economically and socially liberal.

They are all sold out (quite literally) on the idea of man-made global warming.

They all favour ‘carbon neutrality’ and ‘green taxation’.

They all favour wealth redistribution as the primary means of the alleviation of poverty.

They all favour devolution and decentralisation.

They all (now) favour tighter controls on non-EU immigration, achieved through some kind of ‘points’ system.

They all favour the reform of education and the academy programme independent of LEAs.

They all favour health reform through the introduction of market mechanisms.

They all favour constitutional reform, be it the House of Lords or the electoral system.

They are all in favour of the UK’s continuing membership of the EU.

And they all favour a ‘new kind of politics’.

Nick Clegg summed it up in the autumn of 2007, when he said: “I want the Liberal Democrats to stand for a new kind of politics. A politics of people, not systems; of communities, not bureaucracies; of individual innovation, not administrative inter-vention. The days of big government solutions – of ‘the man in Whitehall knows best’ – are now coming to an end.”

David Cameron, speaking in the same month, used similar language: “We’ve always been motivated by a strong and instinctive scepticism about the capacity of bureaucratic systems to deliver progress. Instead, we’ve always preferred to place our trust in the ingenuity of human beings, collaborating in messy and unplanned interaction, to deliver the best outcomes.”

And so they have set out to create ‘a new progressive alliance to decentralise British politics’.

David Cameron’s vision of a ‘Big Society’ is essentially the occupation of the ‘centre ground’ of politics with appeals to ‘middle England’.

It doesn’t have to mean anything specific or achieve anything quantitative: there are no targets by which its success or failure may be measured. It is a feeling; a way of talking about community themes and public service, of fraternity and security.

Which brings His Grace to the theology.

For that which is politically or theologically ecumenical must, by definition, have universal appeal. To be ecumenical is to be outward-looking, tolerant, compassionate and enlightened: it is to be content with coalition.

To be dogmatic in either theology or politics is to be introspective, intolerant, unloving, uncompassionate and, dare one say it, bigoted. It is to express a tendency towards the doctrine of the Taliban; to be separatist, pure, orthodox and, in the final analysis, right.

Or at least that is how political ideology and theological orthodoxy are now invariably portrayed.

So, in this pervading spirit of coalition compromise and accommodation, it comes as no surprise that an Oxford college (Pembroke) has achieved an historic first by inviting an imam to preach in its historic chapel.

The pulpits of Oxford’s colleges have been occupied by ministers of the gospel since the 13th century: their sermons have been variable, their styles diverse, and their theology ‘developed’.

But it was all essentially Christian.

The invitation to Dr Taj Hargey – from the Summertown Islamic Congregation in Oxford – has taken ecumenicity to a whole different plane.

And it is even more alarming that his sermon was preceded by the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, which was read out by an 11-year-old girl.

Imagine: ‘There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet’ ringing out from the hallowed pulpits of Oxford.

They can get away with it, of course, because it is proclaimed in Arabic.

The whole initiative was the brainchild of the Rev Dr Andrew Teal, of Pembroke College, who said he had been trying to get a Muslim imam to deliver a sermon at the chapel for many years.

Not enough priests and vicars?

He said: “We wanted to do something which brought together Christianity and Islam, but not to create a third thing.”

A third thing?

Like a Christian-Muslim coalition, perhaps?

Dr Teal said the invitation was possible because ‘the two faiths are actually very close’.

Very close?

East and West are very close.

At Greenwich.

While Abraham might be a key figure in both religions, and both might share the personages of the prophets of the Old Testament and some of their writings, but that is where ‘very close’ ends.

There is no unifying doctrine of God and no agreement on the path of salvation: the Isa of the Qur’an is not the Jesus of the New Testament.

Play ecumenics with politics, by all means.

But the ‘centre ground’ of theology is shifting sand.

Especially in Oxford.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Indigo said...

Mandelson just wants a job where he can resume tinkering. He can't bear being outside the magic circle.

28 October 2010 at 10:05  
Blogger Gawain Towler said...

There are so many politician's crowding the centre ground, and now theologians too, it becomes increasingly apparant that there is no room on that island for the majority of the population.
So they will, in time, look elsewhere for their spiritual and political leadership.

28 October 2010 at 10:18  
Blogger Graham Davis said...

Cranmer said

Very close?

East and West are very close.

At Greenwich.

Brilliant!


Surely coalition or ecumenism requires the participants to forgo absolutes. This is more easily achieved in politics than religion.

PS I am looking forward to Cramer’s take on DC’s visit to Brussels which cannot be far away.

28 October 2010 at 10:25  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

And so they become one. They speak with one voice. They act in unison.

In my library I have an old copy of Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Possessed’. And upon the first page, as if standing like a monument he quotes this text from the ‘Book of Luke’:

"And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.”

28 October 2010 at 10:36  
Anonymous bluedog said...

Your Grace,

A very astute post.

It is interesting to note that the Daily Telegraph (Brogan, Hannan) has been running pieces on the US Tea Party phenonemon. Given the emergence of a centrist political blob clustered around Dave and Nick, and given the total ineffectiveness of UKIP on the Right of UK politics, your communicant wonders if a UK Tea Party may not spontaneously emerge shortly. It is quite clear that Dave is not listening to the constituency grass roots at all. Indeed Dave is so far away from his own Tory back-bench they hardly speak the same language. If anybody anywhere thinks Dave is going to take the UK out of the EU, they are very wrong.

Now your communicant has no problem with George Osborne's economic policy, which is sound and responsible. However in the short-term his measures will raise unemployment. Any further surge in unemployment is going to stress British society and create a political opportunity which Dave cannot exploit, being the cause of the problem. He will be on the defensive.

Your communicant is certain there is a huge constituency to be tapped on the Right within the UK that is profoundly anti-EU. Your communicant also believes this sentiment cuts across class, which is unusual and highly significant. It may therefore become quite easy to turn economic frustration into anti-EU sentiment, which in any event is an entirely reasonable position for the electorate to reach. There is no doubt that the EU is a critical problem for the UK on a wide range of fronts. Incredibly there is nobody within the British political class putting forward a detailed critique of the situation and selling an effective anti-EU message to the electorate. The great lie put about by the pro-EU camp is that the economy would suffer if the UK were to withdraw. It wouldn't because Sterling would continue to do what it has always done and act as a shock absorber.

All hail to the Great Clunking Fist for retaining an independent currency. His motive was to annoy Blair, but that's not the point.

28 October 2010 at 12:01  
OpenID yokel said...

Your Grace, please forgive this communicant a conspiracy theory.

As these politicians are all talking the same talk, who is pulling their strings? As all the ministers of religion in Oxford seem to be talking the same talk, who is pulling their strings? Would George Soros be involved at all?

28 October 2010 at 12:35  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bluedog,

"the total ineffectiveness of UKIP on the Right of UK politics" is mainly due to conservative minded people sticking with *the* left of centre Conservative Party in the mistaken belief that they are a right wing party...... instead of joining *a* conservative party

haddock

28 October 2010 at 12:39  
Blogger Caedmon's Cat said...

Perhaps the reason that there is a 'new consensus' (or ecumenism as Cranmer likes to call it) in politics today is because all of the political levers are now operated by Fabians - of which Mandelson, Blair, Cameron and Clegg are examples. Could it be that the establishment are getting tired of exploiting the left-right (Hegelian dialectic) dichotomy and are paving the way for a unified one-party state?

Just wondered...

28 October 2010 at 13:16  
Anonymous Anguished Soul said...

One world government, one world church...sounds all very Biblical Your Grace.

28 October 2010 at 14:11  
Blogger Berserker said...

G Davis?
Is this the space to put my oar in about Greenwich?
Quotes: East and West are very close. At Greenwich

Let us keep British Summer Time all year round.

It has been tried before and was very successful in reducing accidents and saving energy consumption. Also children would be healthier for extra exercise that a longer day would enable.

Why did it fail to last beyond 1968-1971?

Scots intransigence! They love being difficult. So why don't we say that they can do their own thing through the Scottish parliament and ignore the rest of Europe and we will have Double Summer Time in Summer and not put the clocks back in October,

28 October 2010 at 14:13  
Anonymous Preacher said...

What planet are some of our ministers living on? It certainly is not this one.
I've just spent over an hour reading about the persecution of christians by jihadists & Islamic governments throughout the world, only to read that some idiot in Oxford has invited a Muslim imam to preach in the chapel as we 'All have so much in common'.
No wonder Islam is so disdainful of christianity with morons like this seeking to grovel at their feet. Why doesn't he stop playing at life & grow some cojones? When everyone thinks you're an idiot it's better to shut up than speak up & confirm that they are right.

28 October 2010 at 14:13  
Blogger oldmaid said...

In short the LibLabCon is a triumvate.

And it appear the only way the people can get shut of them, short of bloody revolution, is to never vote for any of them ever again.

Personally speaking I'm a tad squeamish about blood and bullets are expensive one off commodities.

However, I also expect they are looking at ways to 'do away' with the 'need' for elections, so because we have lots of lamposts I'd be happy to settle for a Mussolini type of revolution with plenty of rope...!

28 October 2010 at 16:47  
Anonymous not a machine said...

I think your grace may be pondering if the wrong is being used Ecumeicalism in place of socialism ? No wonder Mr Mandelson is happy .

Howver I can only wonder if pembroke colledge in terming Judao-christian faith , close with Islam is forgetting how terrorism is so much a part of radical islam .
We shall have to wait and see where such a sermon intends to go before the questions must be answered .The quoran is quite clear in how you are treat non muslims and somewhat different to the great commands of the new testament.

28 October 2010 at 17:56  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

In the comments section of the previous post, Graham Davis asks what it is that we hope for. Well, all I can say is that I put hope in my faith that God has a plan, and that this shambles which Cranmer so eloquently describes is all part of it.

Without this hope, Graham, I would quite rapidly indulge in self destructive behavior. Not a good testimony or great example of reasons for faith, but there you have it. My reasoning is that this world is fast descending into a pit of slime, and I do in fact hate it, which is not good, it does not make me very big at all, and I confess this as a low quality, and repent daily.

Jesus save us.

28 October 2010 at 18:03  
Anonymous len said...

I can see where this one World Religion thing is going, and I believe it will be set up by well meaning Liberals.Well meaning but with absolutely no revelation of the spiritual realities they are dealing with.
We are also heading for a one World Government( in the interests of peace and harmony) of course.
This too will all seem like a' very good idea'.
When Eve was tempted with the idea of obtaining knowledge this too seemed to be a' very good idea'but she was unaware of the intent behind the seemingly 'good idea'.
What we are doing is building a platform a vehicle which is consolidating all things, to put total control into the hands of one man.

28 October 2010 at 19:46  
Anonymous bluedog said...

Mr Anonymous Haddock @ 12.39. UKIP presents as a single issue party, and however admirable its aims that is a weakness. To outflank the Conservative Party on the Right a broader brand would be needed. The name British National Front is taken and has unfortunate connotations. The French have often used the moniker 'Rally' which sounds good and could be used somehow. One could possibly re-brand UKIP as Rally for Britain.

28 October 2010 at 20:54  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

Please note

Not all policies are decided by our ruling class elite, just all the mad, bad and generally most unpopular ones.

These policies are those that contribute to our ruling elites long awaited and much beloved New World Order.

Which, for those not at all paying proper if any attention, is an extremely murderous and horrendously nasty cross between corporate Communism and corporate Fascism. Not that there was EVER any notable difference between the two in the first or second place.

How do you spot a policy wholly devised by our worlds corporate elite?

Simple.

Look for the ones that involve ever higher taxation, pointless wars, the creation, or perpetuation of monopoly's, and generally all things that would seem to be party political suicide if the respective policy were not being promoted by the combined efforts of our mass media, and especially THE BBC, 24 hours of every day of the week.

If the policy would seem to be based on common sense, and/or the popular will of the great mass of the common people. Then one should still be highly suspicious, but chances are that the ruling elite have little directly to do with it.

However on the whole, please try not to delude yourselves, any more then you are already deluded.

There is not now and never has been at any time or place in the past, anything even close to real democracy running anything but a wholly ineffectual small club or association.

Local, National and Pan-national Democracy only exists now, and have only ever existed in the past to give the ILLUSION of choice, especially regarding anything notably important.

Democracy is not the best form of government. Democracy is not even the best form of government, picked from a very nasty set of alternatives. Democracy is without doubt one of the worst possible forms of government selected for us from a list of perfectly reasonable alternatives that never have, and never will be allowed to be made available to us.

28 October 2010 at 21:21  
Blogger JamesD'Troy said...

Dietrich Bonhoffer argued that people must constantly speak the truth even in Democratic societies. How Rev. Dr. Andrew Teal can talk of ecumenicalism at the expense of the truth about the Quran is revealing about Teal's own beliefs. Along those lines I can't recall Jesus executing adulterous women or prisoners or enslaving their women and children, nor can I remember Jesus ordering the assasination of his critics to name a few misdeeds that Mohammed did commit.

Let's pray that Rev. Teal efforts at ecumenicalism don't come at the expense of truth.

28 October 2010 at 21:26  
Anonymous Atlas shugged said...

On the thorny subject of religion, more specifically organized or established religion.

I challenge any of you to contradict the below using any method that you personally consider to be reasonable.

ALL of the worlds religions are almost exactly the same, and worship the exact same thing. (Only the words names and places have changed.)

Which is THE SUN.

Please note; not the son, but The SUN. You know that bright shiny thing that arrives in the sky every morning sometime shortly before or after breakfast.

REAL Christians are the only notable exception to this golden rule. However real Jesus following christians are all but totally extinct, ( many of them eaten by lions) and should never be found in any form of established CHURCH.

Real Christians worship in a congregation, they do not attend established churches.

There is however a form of Christian that follows the word of Jesus, and also worships THE SUN.

Cranmer himself being a reasonably apposite example, whether he knows that he is one of them, or not.

IMOPO

There is nothing inherently wrong with worshiping the SUN, nor with following the word of Jesus of Bethlehem. Neither is there anything wrong with worshipping both at the same time.

What is maybe rather ignorant and possibly dangerous is not knowing what the bugger you are actually doing, or why you are doing it.

28 October 2010 at 21:57  
Blogger Clameur de Haro said...

I see that adherents of the Religion of Peace have recently publicly executed two teenage girls in Somalia for "spying on the Islamic militia for the government" - and forced inhabitants of the town to watch.

No doubt Dr The Reverend Andrew Teal wil soon be organising a similar spectacle in Oxford to demonstrate just how much we have in common with our brothers-in-Allah.

28 October 2010 at 22:46  
Anonymous Atlas Shrugged said...

LeucipottomySpoon82 said...
@ Atlas Shrugged 27 October 2010 02:31

The Fluff Bunny Wiccans Big Book of History doesn't count. For example, if the Spanish Inquisition had claimed the lives of between fifty million and three hundred million, then Europe would have been depopulated.

Like Anonymous 01:14 said: All your pseudo-historical assertions demonstrate is that you need to read more than one book - and try to make it one that includes footnotes and a bibliography.

27 October 2010 10:44

My dear LeucipottomySpoon82 you are an utter fool, who can clearly not perform even simple sums.

I claimed that SOME claim that 50,000,000 died at the hands of The European Inquisition over a 350 year period.

This equates to an average of 142,857 per year, over the entire expanse of the European continent. Which would clearly not cause the depopulation of Europe or even a very small part of it.

SOME very well qualified historians, suggest that The Inquisition has not as yet ended.

Many members of my extended family perished in German/POLISH Concentration camps.

The Gestapo were set up by and in direct accordance with the Jesuits Orders of Rome.

Hitler would never have had a sniff of power without Papal support on both a financial and political level.

These are FACTS. It matters not whether you like them or not. They are the FACTS of the matter, all the same.

Of course nobody really knows exactly how many perished at the hands of The RCC, and its Jesuit Orders going back as far as the late 15th century. ( although 20th century German Jesuits in particular did keep very careful records on such things) Neither do they know for sure how many are still perishing today. One thing I can tell you is, that by the use of one method or another the number is still rising fast, and all over the entire planet.

The good news.

Human beings do have a habit of replenishing themselves, especially after times of great murder or fatal disease, usually by having sex. You may care to try it sometime, it may help to clear your mind, as it surely helps to prolong your particular strands of DNA.

Having given this further thought, maybe you should take-up full time flower arranging.

28 October 2010 at 23:24  
Blogger LeucipottomySpoon82 said...

@ Atlas Shrugged
I'm busy right now. Can I ignore you some other time?

28 October 2010 at 23:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The imam to whom your grace refers is widely regarded as a heretic in the Muslim community and has a minute following to say the least.

His personal interpretation of Islam is genuinely moderate and compatible with Judeo-Christian values, unlike all mainstream sects.

It's therefore not surprising that Dr. Hargey was the man for the job of proclaiming Mohammed's dominion in the next little corner of the UK to become an Islamic republic.

The wheels shall fall off soon enough.

29 October 2010 at 00:22  
Blogger Manfarang said...

"England does not do revolution"
God's Englishmen invented the revolution in the 17th century.

29 October 2010 at 01:56  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

Methinks you wrote this tongue-in-cheek:

‘England does not do revolution, in either the political or religious realms…’

It was in 1215 that the people brought wicked King John to heel – under The Great Charter of England.

In the 17th century King Charles I and the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings was terminated.

On the 4th July 1776 the grandsons of the Puritans that fled to the American colonies rose up in rebellion against the tyranny of King George III.

In H. P. Bulmer Ltd. and Another v J. Bollinger S.A. and Others the great Christian judge Lord Denning heralded a revolution (brought about by the 1972 European Communities Act):

‘The first and fundamental point is that the Treaty concerns only those matters which have a European element, that is to say, matters which affect people or property in the nine countries of the common market besides ourselves. The Treaty does not touch any of the matters which concern solely England and the people in it. These are still governed by English law. They are not affected by the Treaty. But when we come to matters with a European element, the Treaty is like an incoming tide. It flows into the estuaries and up the rivers. It cannot be held back, Parliament has decreed that the Treaty is henceforward to be part of our law. It is equal in force to any statute.’

One day Your Grace this country will once more be free: our very own Independence Day.

‘This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself. [Are you listening Prime Minister?]
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them: nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true.’

29 October 2010 at 09:24  
Anonymous Preacher said...

Breaking news.........
Our Dave has just agreed to an increase in the amount we donate to the charity of EU, better known as the society of failed politicos, thieves, robbers & scammers. The good news is it's ONLY 2.9%! Soon be out of the red at this rate eh? (Not us but the great unwashed & unelected Euro MP's).

29 October 2010 at 09:56  
Blogger Ingenieur said...

"They are all in favour of the UK’s continuing membership of the EU."

Yeah, that's the trouble, when most of the electorate are not.

YG might have added, "and they all promised us a referendum, and then welched on their commitment."

They are all cynically, utterly contemptuous of those who are deceived by their promises, and none are worthy of our trust.

29 October 2010 at 10:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The penny has dropped. The three main parties are all pro-EU, pro-immigration, pro-Afghan war. No other views tolerated in debate or thought on pain of being banged up for ‘hate crime’. Wake up folks. You are no longer living in a democracy. You are voting for one party with three faces. How clever. What a shame for the Soviets. The USSR might still be in existence today if the Communists had come up with the same deception. But those clever old Marxists who rule the EUSSR and their puppet ‘sovereign’ states thought of it first.

29 October 2010 at 11:02  
Anonymous len said...

Mr Anon(11;02) I think you have something there.
All Political Parties seem to be singing from the same Hymn sheet as regards the E U .
We seem to be rearranging the deck chairs from the port to starboard and then back again in a futile attempt to 'look busy' and to give the impression that we are actually in control of events.
This Country has lost everything it ever fought for and held dear and it has been handed over to the Bureaucrats in Brussels.

29 October 2010 at 23:02  

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