What kind of idiot does Baroness Warsi take the Pope for?
But there was something ever so slightly inappropriate, not to say embarrassingly patronising, about a few sections of the speech, which made His Grace wonder at the religio-political disconnect which exists at Conservative Campaign Headquarters. Not only is it bizarre that the Baroness is of the view that Britain is being taken over by
If that’s a takeover, the BNP are virtually at Downing Street. The problem isn’t the paltry number of ‘militant secularists’ or the rise of ‘aggressive secularism’: it’s the gulf that exists between what Baroness Warsi is preaching and what HM Government is practising. If Pope Benedict has got half a brain (which he surely has, along with two or three other halves as well) he must be wondering what on earth this woman takes him for.
Her introduction included the observation that diplomacy between England (though she said the United Kingdom) and the Holy See is ‘the oldest formal diplomatic relationship in my country’s history’, dating back to 1479. But, she continued, ‘for reasons we all know too well, we broke diplomatic relations...’
Don’t, for God’s sake, mention the ‘R’ word.
And she went on to boast about her speech at the Anglican Bishops’ Conference on the importance of governments ‘doing God’, with the Coalition ‘marking a clean break with the approach from the past’ (ie Blair), saying that ‘our Government would be on the side of faith.’ And so she made a plea (‘one simple argument’) ‘to ensure faith has a proper space in the public sphere...’.
Setting aside what she might have meant by ‘proper’, it must be observed that the Coalition has simply continued (and, indeed, extended) New Labour’s aggressive assertions of equality: if it moves, it has to be equalised. It is the inviolable dogma and immutable creed to which religion, politics and the economy must be subsumed.
Baroness Warsi insists that Christians ‘need to feel stronger in their religious identities, more confident in their beliefs’. This, she avers, ‘means individuals not diluting their faith...and nations not denying their religious heritage’.
This is a Cabinet minister of a government which fully supports Labour’s war against Roman Catholic adoption agencies, and intends to go even further than Tony Blair went with civil partnerships in a quest to redefine marriage. If that isn’t diluting faith and denying heritage, it’s difficult to know what is. Marriage isn’t exclusively Christian, but its essential heterogeneity is certainly part of our religious heritage: the Established Church maintains that the venerable institution consists of one man and one woman for the procreation of children.
But she avoids that banana, opting instead for a swipe at French laïcité. Europe, she says, ‘needs to become more confident in its Christianity.’ She bemoans the ‘basic misconception’ that somehow ‘to create equality and space for minority faiths and cultures we need to erase our majority religious heritage’. This is strange, since religious equality demands a paradigm shift in the state: a multi-faith presence in the House of Lords; a Monarch who is ‘defender of faiths’; a Church of England complemented by a Mosque of England, the Gurdwara of England, the Mandir of England...
And she boldly proclaims: ‘You cannot and should not erase these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes.’ And yet these foundations are not buildings or spires, but centuries of accumulated wisdom based on Scripture, tradition and reason. She continues:
Let me get one thing very clear (oh, go on): In the United Kingdom, we have guarded against such fear by recognising the importance of the Established Church and our Christian heritage – our majority faith. And that is what has created religious freedom and a home for people like me, of minority faiths.She’s quite right there, of course. But this Established Church is being somewhat sidelined by the Government of which she is part. And her primary allegiance is to her Prime Minister and Party Leader; not to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Such inconvenient truths are conveniently sidestepped, and there follows a profound, insightful and revelatory bit of theological exegesis:
As the Bible teaches us: “For even as the body without the spirit is dead: so also faith without works is dead.”Stunning, eh? And yet she berates those politically-correct ecumenists who reduce irreconcilable doctrines of God to the most banal common denominator.
The Quran teaches us something similar – that:
“those who believe and do good works are the best of created beings”.
This was followed by a little requisite flattery and sycophancy: the Roman Catholic Church is credited for being ‘instrumental in toppling communism’ and for playing a ‘key role in securing peace in Northern Ireland’.
Dr Paisley might have a different perspective (as might all dispassionate historians).
If, as she says, spirituality is suppressed and divinity downgraded (fine, alliterative oratory, incidentally, and most worthy of His Grace [– who wrote this speech?]); and if, as the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, faith is looked down on as the pastime of ‘oddities, foreigners and minorities’; and if we are at that place ‘where religion is dismissed as an eccentricity’ and ‘where faith is overlooked in the public sphere’, it is utterly bizarre that she apportions blame for all this to the ‘European Constitution. Why not look a little nearer home?
When she criticises the ‘well-intentioned liberal elite...who, conversely, are trying to create equality by marginalising faith in society...who think that the route to religious pluralism is by creating a path of faith-neutrality...who downgrade religion to a mere subcategory in public life’, she is talking to her own government and to the Prime Minister, for on the subject of sexual morality, he has said (‘as a church-goer’ himself): "I think Christians should be tolerant and welcoming and broad-minded."
By saying he’s a church-goer before expounding his doctrine, he places the imprimatur of the Bride of Christ upon his belief: ‘I’m a church-goer, and...’ is to arrogate to himself a certain spiritual authority; to appropriate a superior experience; to claim charismatic insight; to place his theological judgement over and above those who oppose homosexual behaviour. And if none of this, he is certainly placing his Anglicanism over and above their Protestant Evangelicalism, which is itself illiberal and religiously regressive.
But the inference is, in any case, quite clear: if you disagree with him, you are intolerant, unwelcoming and narrow-minded, which amounts to the same as being unloving, inhospitable and bigoted. To be a clanging cymbal with no love is not to be a Christian of any kind. Cameron and Warsi are themselves part of the ‘well-intentioned liberal elite’. They want us to ‘do God’ more assertively, but not the Pope’s kind of God. For if you believe the inclination toward homosexuality to be an ‘intrinsic disorder’, and if you believe marriage to be heterosexual, you are a homophobe. If you believe women should be neither priests nor bishops, you are a misogynist. If you oppose abortion and contraception, you are anti-liberty and anti-women’s rights. And neither does the Baroness admit the God of the Established Church, for if you believe the Throne of the United Kingdom should remain Protestant, you are a bigot. It is all reminiscent of the remark made on Roman Catholic schools by Labour’s Barry Sheerman MP. He detected 'intense turmoil' about the future of Catholic education, and 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.'
People who are 'not serious about their faith' do not possess a faith. And faith schools which are 'not serious about their faith' are not faith schools. Let us all ‘do God’, but not by all means, for we must make sure it is the loving God of mercy who accepts us just as we are, for the Holy God of judgement who punishes and rejects is no longer welcome.