Dr Evan Harris: the Church of England is misogynist and homophobic
As the former Liberal Democrat frontbench spokesman continues to make his bid to succeed Nick Clegg (for there is nothing more conducive to his ambition than not to be tarnished by the whiff of coalition), he has tweeted a broadside against the Established Church, alleging that it hates women and homosexuals.
He qualifies it with ‘mildly’, but what is mild hatred? How can one mildly hate women? What on earth is mild hatred of homosexuals?
Of course, one might expect such comments from an abortion-supporting humanist-secularist-atheist, but one wonders why he targets only the Church of England, which very broadly accommodates such an array of mutually exclusive propositions and beliefs that some wonder how it maintains believers in communion at all. Dr Harris refers to the Constitution, insisting that it should not be ‘linked’ to misogyny or homophobia. But these are not reasons simply to disestablish, but to ban altogether, for the illegality of discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexuality is firmly embedded in statute law.
Is it not ironic that the Church which is tearing itself apart over issues of gender and sexuality, and which has devoted an utterly disproportionate amount of its ministry time and theological effort to considering whether or not women may be ordained as priests or consecrated as bishops, should be singled out for its anachronistic attitudes by someone professing to be a liberal?
O, and a democrat.
In truth, he is neither: Evan Harris is one of those aggressive secularists whose atheist fundamentalism can admit no liberal breadth or democratic latitudinarianism. He appears not to understand that it is neither liberal nor democratic to ride roughshod over the consciences, beliefs and views of minorities; if, that is, the Church of England constitutes a minority, for Christian orthodoxy appears to have been excluded from those ‘protected characteristics’ identified in Labour’s Equality Bill.
It is strange indeed that Evan Harris accuses the Church of England of (mild) hatred of women at the very time it is being accused by departing bishops, priests and laity of having lied and schemed to impose women bishops upon them. Synodical approval for women priests was obtained in 1992 only because of the assurance that alternative pastoral arrangements would be made for those who could not, in conscience, accept female spiritual authority. That compromise has plainly been abandoned, so there is no ‘hatred’ of women: indeed, if anything, there is boundless love of the sort the Liberal Democrats can only dream of (the party has proportionally fewer women MPs [just 12%] than both Labour [31%] and the Conservatives [16%]). Is that evidence of LibDem misogyny?
Perhaps Dr Harris confuses misogyny with theology. We pray ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven’: would Dr Harris demand the BCP be amended to ‘Our Mother’ on alternate Sundays? God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son to redeem us: would Dr Harris advocate the re-writing of history to accommodate Christ’s femininity or expound his homosexuality? Jesus chose 12 male disciples and did not marry: does that make him a misogynist?
If God is our Father, and God is love; if Christ is the Son, and Christ is love, then there is no hatred – mild or otherwise – in the expression of maleness that lies at the heart of Christian divine ontology. Indeed, it is manifestly illiberal to seek to emasculate this God or androgynise the faith on the basis of a tyrannical desire to impose ‘equality’. How can that be love?
If Evan Harris wishes one day to lead the Liberal Democrats (in coalition with Ed Miliband), one can perhaps understand why he has abandoned Mill for Marx. But, please, Dr Harris, the Church of England is the least of sinners when it comes to grappling with complex issues of gender and sexuality: why don’t you pick on another religion whose hatred of women and homosexuals is – how she His Grace put it – rather less mild?