Trevor Phillips on those militant, extremist, homicidal Christians
His Grace had not intended to comment on the Sunday Telegraph interview with Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, not least because any engagement with Mr Phillips invariably produces more heat than light. The article has been greeted with almost universal condemnation by the Christian media, and a certain disquiet expressed by the humanist-secularist-atheist lobby. Reports suggest that offence has been caused in equal measure, thereby establishing Trevor Phillips’ impeccable credentials for neutrality and impartiality.
Consider these exerts:
FASHIONABLE ATHEISMWhy is the Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission giving us his opinion on whether or not religion is a matter of choice? Indeed, by suggesting that religion is not a matter of choice, he elevates it to the level of ethnicity. His observation that faith ‘makes some societies better than others’ seems designed to provoke and offend those of no faith.
"There is a view that says religion is a private matter and it's entirely a choice. I think that's entirely not right. "Faith identity is part of what makes life richer and more meaningful for the individual. It is a fundamental part of what makes some societies better than others in my view....”
STANDING UP FOR BELIEVERSAgain, the assertion that religion is ‘essential’ to identity and fulfilment is nothing but offensive to non-believers.
"Our business is defending the believer. The law we're here to implement recognises that religious identity is an essential part of this society. It's an essential element of being a fulfilled human being....”
WARNING TO CHURCHES ON CHARITYThis section is duplicitous, and certainly contradicts his previous statements. Crucially, Trevor Phillips fails to distinguish between freedom of worship and freedom of religion: if Christians are no longer free to worship God in spirit and in truth in their daily lives, they are no longer free. If the state is intent on eradicating space in the public sphere for the conscientious objection of the believer, then it fails to acknowledge that ‘religious identity is an essential part of this society’ and intrinsic to being ‘a fulfilled human being’.
"Churches, mosques, temples, religious organisations of all kinds now have to some extent protection under the law but they also have to obey the law including anti-discrimination law because they are charities, because they offer a public service... Catholic care was a clearer and simpler case. You're offering a public service and you're a charity and there are rules about how charities behave. You have to play by the rules. We can't have a set of rules that apply to one group of people simply because they happen to think it's right."
A shift from ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘freedom of worship’ moves the narrative from being ‘in the world’ to the physical confines of a church, temple, synagogue or mosque. It is also disconcerting that the new state orthodoxy of religion has been defined in terms of a Kantian notion of inviolable rights, as though the Platonic Forms and Aristotelian Virtues constitute no part of our syncretised conception of Christianity. Freedom of worship is meaningless for the Christian if it may not be the result of vibrant, living relationship with the Lord; if it may not sear the conscience daily on the life-long journey of faith.
In the Declaration of Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae from the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic Church summarised this right: "Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ."
The practice of religion – true religion – permeates every fibre of our being and enters every fabric of our lives. After centuries of constitutional theo-political development, the British State arrived at a notion of tolerance and an understanding of liberty which Trevor Phillips appears to be intent on limiting to state-approved expressions. By advocating ‘freedom of worship’, he adopts the narrative of the ‘aggressive secularist’ who seeks to relegate faith to the private sphere.
NO POLITICS BEYOND CHURCH DOORWelcome to the English Church Settlement, Mr Phillips. He is clearly a proponent of disestablishmentarianism, but Erastian Church-State relations are slightly beyond his remit. By expressing this view, he offends many Anglicans and people of all faiths who support Establishment. And doubtless he also articulates a view with which many will find themselves in sympathy. But the important point is that his opinion on this matter is irrelevant: Church of England bishops have already been successfully sued for failing to appoint homosexual youth workers, and we will doubtless begin to see vicars dragged into court by militant homosexualists who are denied a church wedding. Anti-discrimination law has already crossed the threshold and occupied the vestibule. It is presently coursing unhindered up the nave. It is only a matter of time before it crosses the transept, ambles through the choir and occupies the altar.
"It's perfectly fair that you can't be a Roman Catholic priest unless you're a man," he said.
"It seems right that the reach of anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church or mosque.
"At the moment the law says it [appointing openly gay bishops] is a matter for the Church of England. It's probably right.
"I'm not keen on the idea of a church run by the state. I don't think the law should run to telling churches how they should conduct their own affairs."
POLITICAL CHRISTIANSIt is not for Trevor Phillips to define what constitutes ‘Christian values’. Indeed, by doing so, he has rather made his position untenable. Having said that ‘anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church’, he now seeks to define the extent of what should stop. And one wonders why he singled out Evangelical Christians as those ‘most likely to feel slighted’. Has he not heard any of the recent speeches by Pope Benedict XVI? Or is it just that the Evangelical Alliance is a softer target than the might of Rome?
"I think the most likely victim of actual religious discrimination in British society is a Muslim but the person who is most likely to feel slighted because of their religion is an evangelical Christian," he said.
"There are a lot of Christian activist voices who appear bent on stressing the kind of persecution that I don't think really exists in this country. There are some Christian organisations who basically want to have a fight and therefore they're constantly defining the ground in such a way that anyone who doesn't agree wholly agree with them about everything is essentially a messenger from Satan.
"I think for a lot of Christian activists, they want to have a fight and they choose sexual orientation as the ground to fight it on. I think that whole argument isn't about the rights of Christians. It's about politics. It's about a group of people who really want to have weight and influence and they've chosen that particular ground.
“Personally I don't know why they don't choose ground that really is defending Christian values. I wish they'd choose gambling or human trafficking or something."
"OLD TIME RELIGION" HARMING INTEGRATIONThis is where Trevor Phillips hangs himself. He talks the ‘conventional churches’ and belief in an ‘old time religion’ which is ‘incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society’. Setting aside the historic theological reality that Christianity has always been counter-cultural, Trevor Phillips appears to take David Cameron’s definition of the faith, which is basically that of being nice to everyone. In the context of a discussion on homosexuality, the Prime Minister said just a few months ago: “I think Christians should be tolerant and welcoming and broad-minded." Ergo, if you do not agree with David Cameron, you are intolerant, unwelcoming and narrow-minded, which amounts to the same as being unloving, inhospitable and bigoted.
"I come from that kind of community. We like our faith strong and pretty undiluted. If you come from an Afro-Caribbean Christian background the attitudes to homosexuality are unambiguous, they are undiluted, they are nasty and in some cases homicidal.
"I think there's an awful lot of noise about the Church being persecuted but there is a more real issue that the conventional churches face that the people who are really driving their revival and success believe in an old time religion which in my view is incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society.
"Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they're doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.
"One of the aspects of that is essentially saying 'whatever we feel about matter of sexuality we're going to have to deal with the fact that most of our neighbours, most of our children's friends, most of our work mates have a broader, more liberal view and we just have to live with that'.
"Integration is also about compromise and I think the reason you don't hear a lot about that from Muslims is that they're trying to find ways of being good Muslims in a way that is consistent with the society they're living in."
To be a clanging cymbal with no love is not to be a Christian of any kind. Trevor Phillips states quite unequivocally that belief in those Church traditions or adherence to orthodox teachings which conflict with the zeitgeist of (post-)modernity is just ‘nasty’. And he chose the Afro-Caribbean churches to illustrate his point, seemingly because that is his own heritage. Yet, by doing so, he manifestly offends those black churches by divorcing their beliefs from the ‘old time religion’ of Rome, the Church of England, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Evangelicals, etc., etc. Each and every one of these ‘conventional churches’ has its divisions on issues of human sexuality, but, broadly, each of them coheres with the ‘nasty’ orthodox belief that homosexual behaviour is, as St Paul said, ‘against nature’ and a sin.
But it is with Trevor Phillips’ assessment of ‘Muslim communities’ where His Grace must depart from all those who insist this interview offends all in equal measure. Mr Phillips says: “Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they're doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy.”
Some may be. But certainly not all. Yet Trevor Phillips does not qualify his assessment with ‘some’, or even ‘many’: he talks simply of ‘Muslim communities’, which presumably includes Saudi-funded mosques, schools and those ‘no-go areas’ of inner-city Birmingham.
He also states that the reason we don’t hear Muslims talking about integration is because ‘they're trying to find ways of being good Muslims in a way that is consistent with the society they're living in’. Well, that’s a very clever covert strategy: you integrate by not talking about the issues publicly; by simply ‘being good Muslims’ privately and getting on with the necessary syncretism which will make Islam tolerant, welcoming and broad-minded. It is not only astonishing that Trevor Phillips talks of Muslims as a cohesive and compliant group like this; it is a manifest prejudicial deception to ignore the existence of the Islamists. Of course, some communities are addressing the issues; of course many Muslims integrate with British culture. But it is a very curious model of integration which daubs the church door with ‘Dirty white dogs’ in red paint; where white children are met with a barrage of stones thrown by Muslim children shouting ‘Satan’; and where the local vicar is called a ‘f***ing white bastard’. Yet these are Trevor Phillips’ ‘good Muslims’. There no mention at all of the ‘nasty’ side of Islam; there is no mention of its attitude to homosexuality which is ‘unambiguous...undiluted....in some cases homicidal’. No, such vehement disapprobation is reserved solely for the Afro-Caribbean Christians - the Christianists.
Trevor Phillips has shown himself to be complacent on Islamic extremism whilst impugning that which is moderately liberal. And that which is moderately liberal is fused with two centuries of that which is liberally conservative. No true liberal society can impose an agenda upon any peaceable individual or democratic group whose conscience(s) do not permit obeisance to its formularies: to do so is to create a new liberal tyranny of ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’.
Our freedoms of speech, religion and association predate the ‘Rights of Man’ agenda, upon which the edifice of the Equalities Commission is constructed. Indeed, those rights spring from the fount of Scripture and so should be understood and interpreted in their Sitz im Leben. And the Gospel of Christ is paramount and pre-eminent: it is not for the State to re-write the Word of God or to impose a uniform theo-political expression of morality. And it is certainly not for the Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to attempt to do so.