Friday, May 31, 2013

Bishop of Salisbury accuses Archbishop of York of supporting slavery and apartheid

This is what the Archbishop of York said about same-sex marriage last year:
We must not torture the English language. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and that's marriage. We supported Civil Partnerships [the bishops in the House of Lords], because we believe that friendships are good for everybody. But then to turn Civil Partnerships into marriage, that's not the role of government to create institutions that are not of its gifting. I don't think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can't just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are. We've seen dictators do it, by the way, in different contexts and I don't want to redefine what I call very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.
This is what the Bishop of Salisbury responds to all who hold such views:
Whilst marriage is robust and enduring, what is meant by marriage has developed and changed significantly. For example, the widespread availability of contraception from the mid-twentieth century onwards took several decades to gain acceptance for married couples by the Lambeth Conference in 1958. The newer forms of the Church of England’s marriage service have since recognised that the couple may have children. Over the last fifty years the Church of England has come to accept that marriages intended to be lifelong can break down and that on occasion marriage after divorce can be celebrated in the context of Church. It is also the case that most couples now live together before they marry. This happens without censure from the Church which continues to conduct these marriages joyfully even though the Church’s teaching is that sexual relationships are properly confined to marriage.

The desire for the public acknowledgement and support of stable, faithful, adult, loving same sex sexual relationships is not addressed by the six Biblical passages about homosexuality which are concerned with sexual immorality, promiscuity, idolatry, exploitation and abuse. The theological debate is properly located in the Biblical accounts of marriage, which is why so many Christians see marriage as essentially heterosexual. However, Christian morality comes from the mix of Bible, Christian tradition and our reasoned experience. Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the Gospel in the light of experience. For example, before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of creation. Similarly in South Africa the Dutch Reformed Church supported Apartheid because it was Biblical and part of the God-given order of creation. No one now supports either slavery or Apartheid. The Biblical texts have not changed; our interpretation has.

The pace of change with regard to same sex relations has been considerable. The Wolfenden report (1957) and Sexual Offences Act (1967) decriminalised homosexual acts in private between men aged over 21 years in England and Wales. This received cautious support from the Church of England at the time. The changes they introduced are now unchallenged and wholly welcomed.

At the co-educational North London Grammar School I attended from 1965-72, there were 2 effeminate gay lads in my year who were no threat to the rest of us but who were regularly beaten up just for being different. At times school for them must have been a brutal experience. What they went through was unkind and unjust but I don’t remember a teacher intervening on their behalf. I am thankful things have changed and we now have a greater sense of equality and fairness. In the current debates it is striking that within the Anglican Communion one of the strongest supporters of same sex marriage is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. From his experience of the racism of Apartheid he sees same sex marriage as primarily a matter of justice.

When the proposal for civil partnerships was debated in 2004 the Church of England was largely hostile. I am grateful that in the Archbishops’ opposition to equal marriage they have expressed their support for civil partnerships and I hope this will help the Church of England towards affirming these relationships liturgically. Like the Archbishops now, I used to think that it was helpful to distinguish between same sex civil partnerships and heterosexual marriage. Many in the churches think the commonly used description of civil partnerships as ‘gay marriage’ is a category error. However, the relationships I know in civil partnerships seem to be either of the same nature as some marriages or so similar as to be indistinguishable. Indeed, the legal protection and public proclamation which civil partnership has afforded gay relationships appears to have strengthened their likeness to marriage in terms of increasing commitment to working on the relationship itself, to contributing to the wellbeing of both families of origin, and to acting as responsible and open members of society. Open recognition and public support have increased in civil partnerships those very qualities of life for which marriage itself is so highly celebrated. It is not surprising this now needs recognition in law.

The possibility of ‘gay marriage’ does not detract from heterosexual marriage unless we think that homosexuality is a choice rather than the given identity of a minority of people. Indeed the development of marriage for same sex couples is a very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage. The ‘quadruple locks’ contained in the Bill provide extraordinarily robust protection for those religious bodies, including the Church of England, unwilling or unable to conduct same sex marriage without accusation of being homophobic.
His Grace cannot be bothered to compile yet another rebuttal to this sort of sloppy eisegesis. Suffice to say that for a bishop to accuse his fellow bishops of being blinded by the same ethical worldview as that which historically persuaded Christians to support slavery and apartheid is a disgraceful and disreputable slur. There is a biblical argument and thoughtful theological perspective that could be adduced for same-sex relationships, but this is not it.

Indeed, if the Bishop of Salisbury is of the view that marriage is simply a matter of 'stable, faithful, adult, loving' relationships, could he please explain what he has against those amongst us who agitate for polyamory?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Are 'Power Christians' taking over the City of London?

Well this is curious.

On the one hand, we have the Rev'd George Pitcher in the New Statesman, persuaded that 'Power Christians' are taking over the City of London. And on the other, we have Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali in the Daily Telegraph telling us that the Faith has collapsed and capitulated to a toxic synthesis of political correctness and ascendant Islam. The Daily Mail today features empty church pews juxtaposed with overflowing mosques, which rather lends credence to the Bishop's view.

The only way of reconciling these apparently mutually-exclusive views is to reason that 'Power Christians' are an elite group of believers, strategically positioned by God in the temples of power, patiently awaiting the Parousia in eschatological fulfilment of Pauline prophecy. They are a kind of prosperity-preaching Bullingdon Christian - a savvy, wealthy, charismatic and cultured charism, perched somewhere between Boris and Billy Graham. They are 'taking over' not so much after the fashion of the Cameroon coup in the Conservative Party, but gently, incrementally under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with the precepts of an Alpha Course.

Or else George Pitcher is a misguided and deluded fantasist - which isn't an unreasonable assertion, given that it was he who advised Rowan Williams back in 2011 to guest-edit the New Statesman and launch a quite unprecedented attack on the Coalition - curiously singling out education! Of all this Government's inadequacies and faults, education reform was a bizarre target for the Church of England to take a shot at. Indeed, 'Power Christians' would support Academies and Free Schools, not least because it gives them even more power than they already have with 26 bishops in the House of Lords, a Monarch who is Supreme Governor, and an Archbishop of Canterbury who is also a member of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.

If God is taking over the City of London, it isn't YHWH or Jehovah, the named God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who is also the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. No, the god who is taking over is the one who has no name. He might call himself 'the God', but that is not a name; it is a job title. This god is not the one worshipped by Abraham or Moses, but an ancient pagan moon-god of fertility. It demands that it is prayed to several times a day, in accordance with rites which were practised long before the sixth century. There cannot be two mutually-exclusive revealed and historical faiths: there cannot be two 'straight paths' to salvation. And neither can there be a Christian 'take-over' of the City of London when the pews are empty and the sermons are as weak as milk. His Grace would believe Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali over the Rev'd George Pitcher any day of the week. We are in the post-Christian era. Prepare for tribulation.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

We should all invite the EDL for tea and biscuits

From Brother Ivo:

Meet Tommy Robinson, or Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, or Paul Harris.

He has a chequered past that reputedly encompasses football hooliganism, criminal convictions and imprisonment, and now he has re-invented himself as a political activist, and as such is the major spokesman for the English Defence League. This group can now be seen marching raucously in many of our town and city centres, primarily protesting the growth of Islamism, but also, by necessary implication, highlighting the alleged intellectual torpor of the principal parties and metropolitan elites as they struggle to strike the balance between security, liberty and the cultural diversity they enthusiastically promoted.

Rough-hewn people like Tommy Robinson used to be denied the oxygen of publicity through back-room discussions between politicians and a handful of leading editors. But today the Internet proves that if they share little else, the EDL and Islamists slip with ease through all attempts to silence them.

Opinion, like water, finds its own level, and there is little the great and the good can do to stop it.

This new world of communications presents a paradox: while once there was a shared cultural narrative which could be shaped and promoted by a relatively small class of opinion formers, now each of these outlets for news and opinion (including this august blog) feeds into its own self-selecting audience. We can hear and know much more, but we tend to use this freedom to compartmentalise ourselves into more entrenched ghettos of opinion. Community is fragmented, and when this is coupled with ‘multiculturalism’ it is little wonder that our political rulers are struggling to keep up with the fast-moving monster they helped to create.

They did this in a variety of ways. The progressive movement thought it had captured the commanding heights of the media economy when it gained dominance in the BBC and the major newspapers. We saw its early successes in writing the agenda for a Palestinian state, the EU, abortion reform and Irish Republicanism. It was the BBC that undermined British Government attempts to marginalise Sinn Fein by employing actors to voice the words that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness were not allowed to speak for themselves. Unfortunately for that strain of opinion, the chickens are coming home to roost. We are fragmenting in our news sources and our communities.

If bomb-planting Irish Republicans and Palestinians deserve to be heard, why not violent Islamists? And if them, why not the EDL? If one media outlet ignores such opinion, another will promote it.

Their voices and views are not only available to those immediately seeking them out, but by links and references, especially on Twitter, where new unknown and unsought material can arrive by re-tweet.

It was by this route that Brother Ivo encountered Mr Robinson. Brother Ivo's history is not one that has taken him often into such circles: he protested against Enoch Powell as a student; has been in business partnership with both a Muslim and a Jew; has sponsored two Muslims to British citizenship; and was on one occasion the sole civilian witness against the then Chairman of the National Front when that gentleman was successfully prosecuted for fomenting public disorder in his town. He is not in sympathy with racists, xenophobes, or the religiously intolerant.

So when he began listening to Mr Robinson, it was from no stance of sympathy but rather one of open-minded scepticism, which he tries to adopt whenever he confronts a new problem or unfamiliar argument.

As he listened, he reminded himself that there have been many grass-root movements that are loved by the Left. When banker-hating ‘Occupy’ besieged St Paul's, its then Dean insisted we listen and resist their lawful bodily eviction. When demonstrators at Lady Thatcher's funeral held placards simply stating ‘Tory Scum’, we were encouraged not to be outraged. Billy Bragg will still get an audience for his songs about the Poll Tax riots or the miners bravely defending their communities by fighting the police.

It should surprise none of us that a working class movement like the EDL is attracting support in towns which have been transformed by immigration policy. These are the people whose children attend schools, where teachers struggle to teach children of a dozen or more different languages, or attend doctors’ surgeries where the speed of throughput is extended by the need for interpreters. Neighbours move: streetscapes are not as one remembers, and such change always breeds resentment. Working-class community resistance to change was captured 50 years ago when Lionel Bart wrote ‘Fings ain't wot they used to be’. It had nothing to do with race or immigrants, but tells us where working-class communities come from when there is change afoot. Even Witney might resist the odd windfarm or three.

Hatred of the newcomer is not acceptable: impatience with politicians from Notting Hill and Hampstead who never seem to share these problems is both foreseeable and understandable.

The more he reflected, the more troubled Brother Ivo became that part of the issue is a looking down on this movement because it does not have a veneer of bien pensant articulate celebrities to speak for it. Yet, historically, men like the EDL protesters have been significantly represented in the armed forces. The Duke of Wellington described the men who defeated Napoleon as ‘the scum of the earth’. Yet were these not also the same kind of men who defeated the Kaiser, as Harold Macmillan famously remarked about the striking miners?

Many have re-written history so that the armies that defended our liberties and freed Europe were not apparently acting from the patriotic impulse of such like the EDL, but were apparently ‘anti-racist’. This significantly overlooks that there were no black officers in the Brigade of Guards, and that it was a segregated Army which stormed the beaches of Normandy and defeated Hitler, while higher-minded intellectuals claimed conscientious objection.

Brother Ivo's reflections have had to be developed with the news that the hacking group Anonymous has apparently taken upon itself to publish the personal information online of those who may or may not be senior leaders or in sympathy with the EDL. That sympathy might extend to those who absolutely hate immigrants, or be qualified and limited to an objection to the blood of British troops blood being shed on behalf of people who do not seem to appreciate it.

It is interesting that Anonymous never felt the need to hack and expose the identities of those behind Islamist websites. They are as narrow-minded as the worst of their opponents. Equally, it is interesting that the BBC reported with equanimity that the police may not commit much resource to tracking down the hackers and bringing them to justice.

Does anyone notice a disparity of response here? We expended millions of pounds to protect the establishment darling Salmon Rushdie when he offended Islam, yet ordinary people who exercise their freedom of speech can apparently be placed at risk with barely a shrug of the collective Establishment shoulders.

There appears to be a range of opinion within the EDL, as in so many political movements. One of the most heart-warming stories this week was of the York imam who invited EDL protesters into his mosque to take tea. It is significant that the invitation was accepted. Community peace is developed by such personal interactions; not by self-righteous denunciation.

It appears that even Mr Robinson has found common ground with a reasonable Muslim commentator who came to one of the rallies to interview him:

That photograph called to mind another unlikely pairing:

Before debates can begin, however, there must be a law-abiding, civil society.

Whether we are considering healing the divisions of Belfast or Luton, there will be grievances, progress, setbacks, disagreements, sabotage, stereotypes and emotions. If Muslims and the EDL can make tentative moves to talk, surely our mainstream politicians and media can begin to show similar understanding? When people are engaged, dogma can be challenged. A useful starting point emerged on Brother Ivo's twitter timeline:

‘Multiculturalism is the politically correct term for Apartheid.’ Discuss.  

(Posted by Brother Ivo)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tory metropolitan elite to concrete over greenbelt

Not content with tearing the Conservative Party asunder and dividing the whole nation over same-sex marriage, it appears that the Tory metropolitan elite are intent on establishing the poverty of their cultural hinterland by concreting over England's green and pleasant land. And once it's gone, it's gone forever - as the party used to intone in the days when it used to care.

Care, that is, about what matters to its members - those who are generally disposed to conserving all that is good in the Constitution and all that is valuable in society: its institutions, traditions and mores, for the continuity and stability of the nation.

According to Planning Minister Nick Boles, "The sum of human happiness that is created by the houses that are being built is vastly greater than the economic, social and environmental value of a field that was growing wheat or rape."

It is not known how the Minister has quantified this happiness, or by what coherent and logical methodology he deduced this conclusion (if, indeed, deduction it be), but once again we see the Tory metropolitan elite riding roughshod over the primary concerns of true conservatives (small 'c' - nothing to do with party members, though millions of them used to be in days gone by).

But 'metropolitan' is merely of the metropolis, and 'elite' is simply a group set apart by some quality, qualification or virtue. His Grace has nothing at all against cities, and he would exhort everyone to rise above mediocrity and aspire to be better - in character, education and virtue. But when the modernising metropolitan elite of the body politic seems infected with money, property and industry to the detriment of community, culture and conversation, it is not unreasonable to find disparagement in both terms.

For this is not an elite which inspires to wholesome jealousy, or raises the oppressed or lifts the downtrodden out of empathy or compassion, but one which induces bitterness in its contempt for the ordinary and everyday concerns of us all. What do they think local Conservative associations have been doing for the past century if not defending the rural way of life? What do they think Conservative councillors have been doing the length and breadth of the country if not guarding the greenbelt from Labour's aggressive urbanisation of cow land and woodland?  

We know that those who now lead us once sat on the same Oxford committees, were members of the same clubs, played tennis together and shared flats in Notting Hill. They were privileged from birth, and now they seem to hold us in contempt, lampooning us as 'dinosaurs', 'backwoodsmen', 'Turnip Taliban' and 'swivel-eyed loons'.

There is nothing unreasonable, mad or backward about preferring fields of bluebells and hawthorn hedges to bricks, glass, steel and concrete. Our happiness is calibrated on a different scale to that preferred by the elite: ours is English and imperial - consonant with culture and harmonised with nature. Theirs is modern and metric - alien, harsh and extrinsic.

Conservatives naturally seek to conserve, and that includes the whole of creation. We might look to the Psalmist for our founding charter: 'The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters' (Ps 24:1f). Belief in God is not a prerequisite for being conservative, but neither does conservatism repudiate such belief. Creation is good not only because God says so, but because it is. Certainly, we may debate the extent and manner of that goodness, and disagree on how best to maintain it. And we may meditate or ponder whether or not the life of man is worth more than that of a sparrow, or whether a brick dwelling brings us more happiness than a field of wheat. But this does not negate the natural Conservative instinct to conserve. And if the Conservative Party no longer conserves, it has lost its raison d'être.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Church Army Chief Exec in bid to oust Nick Clegg

From Brother Ivo:

Brother Ivo finds himself somewhat conflicted at the news that the Chief Executive of the Church Army, Mark Russell, is currently seeking the nomination as Labour Party Candidate for the Sheffield Hallam constituency, currently held by Nick Clegg.

Leaving aside all political considerations, Labour would be hard pressed to find a more suitable contender against a sitting MP with such a high national profile, and the kind of relaxed debating style which saw him win so many votes for the Liberal Democrats as a result of the leadership debates in 2010. Nick Clegg has his detractors and has made many mistakes, but one should not underestimate the scale of the task in trying to unseat an MP with a 15,000 majority. Furthermore, the UKIP wild card is at work, and considerable uncertainty may still be injected into every constituency race.

If anyone is built to unsettle such an incumbent, it is the charismatic Ulsterman, but his immediate election prospects are not primarily Brother Ivo’s concern. Even a good showing in Sheffield might increase Mark Russell’s prospects of securing a more winnable seat, and he has indicated that if elected he would stand down from his position of leading one of the Church of England’s primary evangelical and pastoral organisations.

He was appointed Chief Executive at the remarkably young age of 31. His profile on the Church Army’s website shows a man who has risen swiftly and secured the respect of both Rowan Williams, who appointed him as the youngest member of the Archbishops Council, and John Sentamu who said of him: "He has an infectious love for Jesus Christ and a refreshing commitment to evangelism that the church needs right now!"

It is that need which troubles Brother Ivo.

Having heard Mark Russell preach on various occasions, there is no doubt that he is an effective Christian communicator - quick, passionate, self deprecatory and unafraid to preach of Christ crucified: he touches young and old with the relevance of the Gospel message. You may see a little for yourself in the video link HERE and HERE.

It was partly as a result of Mark Russell’s influence that Brother Ivo’s own Church moved from the model of passive waiting for a congregation to show up, to one of actively reaching out; one of finding ways of 'making them come in' through a variety of strategies that broke down the reluctance of many who fear disapproval and therefore never think to set foot in such a place.

The advertising of Mark Russell as a speaker at an event ensures a good attendance, and those who have heard him preach and teach frequently tell their friends: “Come and hear." The Church needs such motivators, but so does Parliament, hence Brother Ivo’s ambivalence.

Although politically opposed to the party he seeks to represent, the arrival in the House of a no-nonsense Christian who is unafraid to speak of the Good News is an exciting prospect. Even where we might disagree on the answers, his recent work experience puts him in touch with the problems of those whom Jesus calls us to serve, and Mark could certainly be trusted to ask pertinent questions.

However, just as Mark was warned by David Hope that the bureaucracy of the Church would dull his edge, so might the Palace of Westminster. Parliament does have a number of Christians, but too many of them hide their lights under a bushel instead of standing tall and proud so that they might associate their public service and responsibility with the faith that underpins their core beliefs.

Much that Brother Ivo has seen suggests that one with a strong Church Army background would set a good example, and yet..

How often do we find our Members of Parliament sucked into the mire of the 'talking point' or following the 'party line' and the various persuasions of the Whips Office?

Mark Russell speaks in his Church Army video of David Hope interviewing him and warning that the Church of England might well drain him of his youthful enthusiasm. How much more must we fear for any Christian being reduced by the party machines once they enter Parliament!

On the one hand, a plain witness for Christ is much needed amongst our political leaders, and Mark has the capacity to shake others out of their reticence. But, on the other hand, the risk of losing his dynamism from the Church is a tough one to contemplate, particularly if he is dragged into the game of party politics. He would not be the first.

We cannot tell at this stage how this might end, and perhaps the best we can do is to place Mark before God in prayer so that he might use his undoubted talents in the way best suited to God’s plan.

Mark has used a very good closing encouragement to audiences that Moses was a stammerer, David an adulterer, Peter a coward, Thomas a doubter and Paul a persecutor, yet all ended up being of service God.

Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him into Jerusalem with the words: "The Lord has need." This secured His purpose. So Brother Ivo will comfort himself with the thought that if the Lord can make good use of a humble donkey, He will surely not make an exception of a potential Labour Party candidate.

(Posted by Brother Ivo)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

You can't tackle Islamism with another committee

According to a Mail on Sunday exclusive, 'David Cameron is planning new powers to muzzle Islamic hate preachers accused of provoking terrorist outrages such as the killing of soldier Lee Rigby'. We are told:
The Prime Minister wants to stop extremist clerics using schools, colleges, prisons and mosques to spread their ‘poison’ and is to head a new Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation Task Force (TERFOR) made up of senior Ministers, MI5, police and moderate religious leaders.

The high-powered group will study a number of measures, including banning extremist clerics from being given public platforms to incite students, prisoners and other followers – and forcing mosque leaders to answer for ‘hate preachers’.
This apparently constitutes 'a major overhaul of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy'.


Aren't we already doing this? Isn't there already an active engagement with the diverse Muslim communities to encourage 'whistleblowers’ to report extremist clerics or suspicious behaviour?

Presumably there were objections to Islamist preacher Omar Bakri who called the Woolwich murderer Michael Adebolajo 'a hero' for remaining at the murder scene and explaining his motives. How do you 'muzzle' this, Prime Minister? One hopes, in this Internet age, that he is not suggesting a return to the absurd 1980s-style censorship of Sinn Fein/IRA, when TV companies were prohibited from broadcasting the voices of the terrorists, so they simply dubbed the likes of Gerry Adams with an actor's voice. You cannot 'muzzle' the likes of Omar Bakri unless you censor Blogger, Twitter and YouTube.

The Mail 'exclusive' continues:
'We are looking at the range of powers and current methods of dealing with extremism at its root, as opposed to just tackling criminal violent extremism.

‘And we will look at ways of disrupting individuals who may be influential in fostering extremism.

‘We cannot allow a situation to continue where extremist clerics go around this country inciting young people to commit terrorist acts.

‘We will do everything we can to stop it.’
And then we get this gem: ‘This new group will study the issue in great depth before acting.'


If this new committee needs to study theology or learn the ways of Islamism before it can act, it is manifestly made up of the wrong individuals.

But the Government has a problem. They assure us: 'There is no question of restricting freedom of speech', and yet they intend to restrict what may be taught or preached in schools and mosques. And this is where the words of Anjem Choudary must be heeded, for he is a learned Islamist theologian, and - unlike this new committee - knows what he's talking about. A theological problem requires theological solution; not political committees to satisfy the readership of the Daily Mail.

For example, when most Muslims talk about 'Jihad', they are talking about their spiritual struggle against the world, the flesh and Iblīs for the glory of Allah in their lives. Jihad, for them, is about holiness and purity; submission to the divine will. Yet, in the Western vernacular, the word has come to mean suicide bombing, torture, terror and 'martyrdom'. So, does TERFOR ban clerics from teaching Jihad in their mosques?  Who determines this new Islamic theological orthodoxy? Who enforces it? Hasn't 'multiculturalism' already effectively restricted our freedom of speech with the constant assertion that those who oppose mass immigration are 'racist'? Aren't we already 'muzzled' with allegations of 'Islamophobia' when we dare to suggest that the religio-cultural values of Islam are antithetical to social cohesion and pursuit of the common good?

And what is this TERFOR objective of 'preventing people spreading the message of extremism and radicalisation in a totally irresponsible and reckless way'? Is there a responsible and cautious way of spreading such a message? How, precisely, do they intend to tackle radicalisation in unregulated Muslim schools and madrasahs? Is Michael Gove beefing up Ofsted? Excuse His Grace, but wouldn't a particular focus on what goes on in Muslim academies and free schools be, well.. 'racist' or 'Islamophobic'?

Following the Prime Minister’s 'Munich speech' two years, we were led to believe that he had declared war on Islamism and ‘radicalisation’ (ie the cause of Islamism). We were told that he was cutting state funding ‘to any Islamic group that espoused extremist views’. His Grace wrote back then:
These ‘extremist views’ have yet to be codified, but they must of necessity include those precepts of sharia which are inimical to the values of a liberal democracy. David Cameron has already called for an end to the sharia agenda : he made it clear that any expansion of the Islamic code in the UK would indeed undermine society and alienate other communities. He was right to observe that two codes of law cannot work side-by-side: one must give way to the other. We cannot have different laws for different communities: all citizens must be equal before the law, under the ultimate jurisdiction of English or Scottish law.

And so it appears henceforth that Islamic groups will need to subscribe to ‘key British values’. Home Secretary Theresa May criticises in particular the Federation of Student Islamic Societies for being soft on extremism. “They need to be prepared to stand up and say that organisations that are extreme or support extremism or have extremist speakers should not be part of their grouping,” Mrs May said.
But they answered none of His Grace's questions and addressed none of the relevant theological or philosophical issues:
The Government defines as extremist anyone who ‘does not subscribe to human rights, equality before the law, democracy and full participation in society’, including those who ‘promote or implicitly tolerate the killing of British soldiers’.

Those who actively and explicitly promote the killing of British soldiers are traitors to the state and (in His Grace’s opinion) ought to be dealt with in the traditional manner. But the ‘implicit toleration’ of such killing is treason of quite a different hue: it appears that the Muslim Council of Britain will no longer be able to maintain a dignified silence when the UK goes to war with some section of the Ummah, for silence will surely amount to implicit toleration. Does praise of bin Laden (his heirs and successors) amount to implicit toleration of the killing of British soldiers? Does the refusal of a British Muslim soldier (or reservists) to fight in Iraq or Afganistan constitute implicit toleration of the killing of their comrades?

And what of ‘human rights, equality before the law, democracy and full participation in society’? Is the European Convention on Human Rights now sacred writ? Is the creed of liberalism now so absolute that none may question it? Is government funding to be withdrawn from all who question the inviolability of ‘equality’? What is this ‘full participation in society’? What of (say) the Christadelphians, a community patterned after first century Christianity, who do not vote and will not join HM Armed Forces? Do they subscribe to an ‘extremist philosophy’? What of the Plymouth Brethren, who may be perceived to be more than a little antithetical to gender equality and a little narrow and imbalanced with their homeschooling curriculum?

By codifying a set of values to which Muslim groups will need to subscribe, the Government is effectively reintroducing a Test Act: only those who profess adherence to the orthodoxy (of the Established Church) will be eligible for public funding and government engagement. In addition to combating violent extremism, the Government will tackle ‘extremist philosophies’ by looking closely at ‘the values’ of the organisations themselves. Mrs May said: “There’s an ideology out there that we need to challenge and when we first came in as a government one of the things we were very clear about here at the Home Office was we needed to look at extremism, not just violent extremism.” The assertion is that violent extremism is incubated within the ideology of non-violent extremism.

This is quite possibly the most significant shift in the Conservative Party’s religio-political history since Catholic emancipation. As a Tory-Whig church party it gradually (and rightly) eschewed petty denominational concerns in order to become the Conservative ‘broad church’ (quite literally) consonant with two centuries of more ecumenical political philosophy.

While everyone knows that the target is Islam, the Home Secretary has moved swiftly to quell any whiff of inquisition: “We should not just look at one particular type of terrorism but look at violent extremism and terrorism more widely as well,” Mrs May said. This must mean the Government is not looking only at one particular philosophy but at ‘extremist philosophy’ more widely.
Nothing happened. It is not possible to 'tackle' Islamist philosophy without having a debate about Islam, or, more particularly, the Sunni-Salafist-Wahhabi strain of Islam. Certainly, there are those Muslims who insist that its adherents are not Muslims, and that they pervert the true Islam. But that is not the view of the 'extremists', who are not extremists in their own eyes, and are as free in our liberal democracy to excommunicate the wishy-washy 'moderate' Muslim as no true solider of Allah.

There are serious implications here for religious liberty which the Prime Minister (surrounded by ‘religiously illiterate, secularist advisers’) has not even begun to consider.

A Briton (or anyone legally entitled to live here) presently has the right to oppose or support British policy in Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya and may campaign to that effect, write, agitate and stand for election towards the chosen end. A corollary of such democratic engagement is that (s)he does not have the right to stone adulterers to death, bomb the underground or attempt to blow up aeroplanes. But there are many and diverse religious practices which conflict with traditional British liberties (ie ‘values’); they are a logical consequence of a pluralism and the development of a multi-faith society. While few would defend such abhorrent practices as forced marriages, ‘honour killings’, female genital mutilation or child abuse, there is a manifest tension between the assertion of individuality over the common good, and ‘human rights’ over community cohesion. Since there are no agreed criteria by which conflicting religious claims can be settled, religion is increasingly relegated to the private sphere: morality thereby becomes largely a matter of taste or opinion, and moral error ceases to exist.

The modern era is obsessed with three themes – autonomy, equality and rights. These are the values that allow each to be whatever he or she chooses. Left unfettered, the assertion of these leads to anarchy, so a British ‘values system’ has to be imposed for society to function at all. As society expands to encompass ever larger numbers of religious, ethnic and linguistic groups, rigid social structures are stretched to breaking point. The Church requires either cultural homogeneity or an élite sufficiently powerful to enforce conformity. But this negates the limited degree of Christian religious pluralism which the passing of the 1689 Act of Toleration specifically permitted. Dissenting traditions have gained in number and influence and have weakened the grip of state religion. The costs of coercing religious conformity are no longer politically acceptable: the state is not willing to accept the price in social conflict and so adopts a position of ‘neutrality’ on the competing claims of various religious bodies and moral values.

And that 'neutrality' has brought us to where we are. We are so obsessed with not offending minorities that we not only tolerate but advocate their alien cultural beliefs and practices. And if we do not, we are 'racist' and 'bigoted'. Mindful of minority ethnic voting communities, politicians have trodden very carefully along the via media between religious liberty and cultural prohibition. There has been no demand for assimilation. That is what must now change.

But it needs no shiny new committee to tell us that.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Eric Pickles: "The only way is Wessex!"

In a riposte to the absurd decision by Labour-run Radstock Town Council in Somerset to ban the Cross of St George (in order 'not to offend Muslims' - no, this is not a joke), Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has responded today by encouraging the flying of all local flags with pride. He has no time at all for ‘stupid municipal officialdom’, as he calls it. And all reasonable people would concur: it undermines community relations and negates national culture. (Has a Muslim ever complained about the flying of the flag of England? If so, Col. Bob Stewart MP has a message for them).

As part of its programme of recognising and celebrating the traditional institutions of England, the Government has decided to mark Wessex Day today by flying the Flag of Wessex over departmental buildings.

Wessex is the kingdom which gave birth to the united English nation. It dates back to the 6th Century, stretching across southern England. Wessex was the dominant kingdom of Anglo-Saxon England, its name deriving from the Old English form for ‘West Saxon’. Wessex kings, such as Alfred the Great, fought off Danish incursions, and by the early 10th century, the Wessex kings had become kings of England. This continuing connection with the Monarchy is reflected by Prince Edward holding the title of Earl of Wessex.

Today also marks the Feast of St Aldhelm, the patron saint of Wessex.

His Grace understands that Radstock Town Council has now reversed its position after a public outcry, including from Muslim groups. There has also been controversy over a Preston housing association banning a front door from displaying a smartly-painted St George’s cross. That needs reversing also.

In April, the Government formally acknowledged the continuing role of England's traditional counties in English public life. Previously, many parts of Whitehall and municipal officialdom shunned these ancient counties, many of which date back over a thousand years. This move complements the Government’s abolition of unelected regional government in England, based on the European Union’s ‘NUTS1’ administrative boundaries. The celebration today of Wessex reflects how the Government is championing the long-standing, traditional localities of England.

Eric Pickles said: “Recent events remind us that we are stronger as a society when we celebrate the ties that bind us together. In the last week, stupid municipal officialdom has sought to ban the English flag, harming not helping community relations. I want to send a strong signal – we should fly our flags with pride. Whatever one’s class, colour or creed, let’s have pride in Britain’s local and national identities. It’s right to celebrate the kingdom that paved the way for a united England: for today, the only way is Wessex.”

Derek Pickett, Chairman of the Wessex Society said: "It took a thousand years for the Wyvern to fly free, may it once again inspire those who gaze up to it and bless those who toil beneath it."

You know.. if a political party were to champion St George's Day (which happens also to be Shakespeare's birthday) as a national holiday in England, it would assist the inculcation of a national identity and remind people of the dominant culture and values. It might even be worth a few votes..

Friday, May 24, 2013

Court of Protection orders abortion of 23-week baby

A guest post from Sister Tiberia:

This is a heartbreaking story.

It concerns a woman for whom one can have nothing but the utmost sympathy. She is 37 years old and suffers from bipolar disorder. Don't underestimate what that does to someone - the depths of depressive illness where on the down-swings even getting out of bed is more than the sufferer is reasonably capable of; the days where suicide seems like the only possible choice of a rational mind. If there is truly a hell, then the long-term sufferers of this condition have endured it on earth.

She is also 23 weeks pregnant, and wants to abort the child.

The case has gone all the way to the High Court.

From the Daily Mail:
She said she would try to commit suicide if she was unable to terminate the pregnancy.

'I would seek to kill myself and the baby,' she said. 'I have pretty much had enough of the whole situation. The only way they could force me to have the pregnancy is by tying me down and locking me up.'

Mr Justice Holman heard evidence from the woman, a consultant psychiatrist involved in her care, from a lawyer representing her husband and from her mother.

The psychiatrist said he was '100 per cent certain' that the woman lacked the capacity to make a decision about termination.

A lawyer representing her husband, who was at the hearing, said he agreed with the psychiatrist's evaluation.

Her mother also agreed with the psychiatrist and said she feared that her daughter might later regret seeking a termination."
But the High Court Judge, Mr Justice Holman, has ruled against the doctors, and stated that she is capable of making the decision.

She is 23 weeks pregnant.

Let nobody be in any doubt as to what that means: we are talking about a child which with excellent intensive care is capable of survival outside the womb. And every subsequent week raises the chances of survival. The implication of the article is that the woman has already been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, since it speaks of her distress at imprisonment (her words).

This decision by the judge beggars belief. And the end result may well be two deaths.

Look up the statistics of suicide after abortion. They're grim.

Garfinkel, et al., Stress, Depression and Suicide: A Study of Adolescents in Minnesota, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Extension Service, 1986) - researchers found a teenage girl is 10 times more likely to attempt suicide if she has had an abortion in the last six months than is a comparable teenage girl who has not had an abortion.

Reardon, A Survey of Psychological Reactions, (Springfield, IL: Elliot Institute, 1987) - this found that 60 percent of women with 'post-abortion trauma' had experienced suicidal thoughts, 28 per cent had attempted suicide, and 18 per cent had attempted suicide more than once.

If you want (or can bear) to read a British Medical Journal article on the subject, try HERE - a 14-day free trial gives access. The writers are looking at the deterioration of mental health after an induced abortion.

Now ask yourself - just what country are we living in? Why is it not possible to support this poor woman for the few more weeks it would take to deliver this pregnancy safely? If she wants then to give up the child for adoption - fine. If she changes her mind (and believe me, people with bipolar disorder do, often) then there are support organisations which will help her if she wants to keep the child.

But dead is dead. And if she goes through with the abortion, then I hope to God they have her on suicide watch for that moment when the realisation hits, together with the post-natal depression.

Poor, poor woman. Poor, poor baby. Is there no way out of this double disaster before it becomes a double tragedy?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Woolwich slaughter: sorry, MCB, but this *is* a school of Islam

The beheading of a British soldier in his own country has long been threatened by some of our home-grown Islamists, but such a barbaric act occurring on the streets of London has been quite literally incredible, unimaginable, inconceivable. Yes, there are gruesome 'religious' decapitations all over YouTube, but that sort of bloody horror is peculiar to the shady fiefdoms of Mogadishu, Chechnya or the Sudan. It just doesn't happen in England. Not to a 20-year-old young man wearing a 'Help for Heroes' charity T-shirt, walking peacefully in the warm London sunlight of the merry month of May.

There appears to be some unfortunate attempt at media censorship going on, and this will help no-one: indeed, it is more likely to increase suspicion over motives and inflame anger. One of the killers, speaking in a recognisable saarf-Laandan accent, was recorded on video. He said:
"We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women have had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don't care about you."
The Muslim Council of Britain rushed out a swift statement, washing its hands of the murder, repudiating utterly any link with Islam: "A barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly," they said.

The problem, of course, is that it manifestly does have a link with Islam. It may have nothing to do with the MCB understanding of the religion in modern Britain, and doubtless they sincerely believe that 'No cause justifies this murder' and that the 'Vast majority of British Muslims acknowledge armed forces for the work they do world'. But to say it has no basis in Islam is to deny Islamic history, ignore the brutality of the warrior Mohammed, and brush off those inconvenient jihadi-Islamic movements in the modern era who seek to emulate their prophet's example.

The MCB is also rather selective with its condemnations and justifications. Have they repudiated Palestinian terrorism? Or does that particular cause justify the slaughter of the Fogel family? Have they said anything unequivocal to condemn the Taliban? Have they condemned their co-religionists who rally in the streets of London demanding the overthrow of the Government and Monarchy and the establishment of a Caliphate?

The truth is that those who hacked away at a British soldier yesterday are acting in accordance with a theologically determined logic which can certainly be situated within a sharia view of Islamic culture and understood on the basis of Islamic religious precepts. The killer calmly and rationally quoted Islamic sacred texts: 'We must fight them as they fight us' echoes the Qur'an:
"..fight (qātilū - literally means kill) in the cause of Allah those who fight you... And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for fitnah (oppression, persecution) is worse than slaughter;... if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith'" (Sura 2:190-9).

"..fight the polytheists all together as they fight you all together" (Sura 9:36).

"Permission to fight is given to those who are fought against, because they have been wronged and surely, Allah is able to give them victory" (Sura 22:39).
The reference 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' is the Mosaic Pentateuch reiterated in the Qur'an:
"And We prescribed for them therein: The life for the life, and the eye for the eye, and the nose for the nose, and the ear for the ear, and the tooth for the tooth, and for wounds retaliation" (Sura 5:54).
These murderers invoke ancient religious rulings and refute any notion of abrogation. As Osama Bin Laden put it: "It is commanded by our religion and intellect that the oppressed have a right to return the aggression. Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge."

No moderate or reasonable Muslim would invoke the literal interpretation of such texts today. But it is simply not true to say that this interpretation of Jihad has no basis in Islam. The Woolwich slaughter is a declared reprisal attack which comes as a direct consequence of the British military presence in Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan. It is, to the jihadi mind, a rational act of holy war, of the sort advocated today by the die-hard Salafist-Wahhabi movement.

That is not to say that the Woolwich killers are members of this school or adherents of its teachings. This is simply to refute the crass and simplistic assertion by the MCB that this slaughter 'has no basis in Islam'. In fact, it bears all the hallmarks of the sort of ritualistic killing not infrequently featured in the Qur'an and Ahadith. This is not, of course, to excuse or justify the action, but we get nowhere very quickly at all if the official body which purports to represent all British Muslims denies the religio-political or theo-cultural inspiration of the slaughter.

The MCB needs to acknowledge that Sunni Islam contains the malignant ideological strand of Salifism. They must own it, condemn it, and seek to reform it. It is that very same militia devil that has overrun Timbuktu and Mali, and is crushing everything that opposes it. The Salafi-Wahhabi movement is now a global phenomenon: it has spread way beyond it primitive desert tribalism and burst forth into our civilisation. It not an Islamic denomination of peaceful shrines, sacred texts and respect for aesthetic heterogeneity: it is one of death and destruction in the name of Allah, following the zeal of Mohammed. We either bury our heads in the sand, or eradicate it utterly from our presence. If we choose to appease Saudi-Arabian puritanism, it will destroy us, just as it is wiping out the mystical Sufi strain of Islam wherever it is to be found.

Political ignorance and judicial impotence against the irruption of virulent quranic rhetoric is no longer acceptable. All authentic Muslims are in submission to Allah: all are jihadists, or holy warriors, for truth. The vast majority, as the MCB point out, pursue the jihad of peace. Others look to the primitive quranic era, and seek to destroy our idolatrous Christian deviancy. The Muslim Council of Britain needs to respond with something rather more potent than a lame bit of text.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Baghdad barbarism comes to the streets of London

It is not at all clear what is of 'Muslim appearance' about this man, as was widely reported as this appalling story was breaking. It is certainly not at all typical of an Al-Qaeda operative to apologise to the ladies when they are forced to witness a machete hacking away at a severed head.

What we do know is that the murderers were two black men, and that they were heard shouting 'Allahu Akbar!' as they sliced into the victim like he was ‘a piece of meat’. An eye-witness told Iain Dale on LBC Radio: "They were hacking at this poor guy, literally. They were chopping him, cutting him. These two guys were crazed. They were just animals."

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim's family. This is utterly deplorable and totally unjustifiable, unless you happen to follow quite literally the historic example of Mohammed, who butchered and beheaded his enemies while invoking the name of Allah.

Atrocities committed in the name of religion are actually committed by man. God condemns murder. Those who spout a doctrine of God which condones it are worshipping a false god or heeding the words of a false prophet. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Those proposing EU 'reform' must put up or shut up

From Brother Ivo:

On Sunday His Grace identified Lord Howe as 'unhelpful' to the Prime Minister, through a combination of abuse of opponents and a slavish commitment to an institution that many on his own side recognise as deeply flawed and desperately in need of reform for the sake of those wishing to remain within it.

As that post was being offered, Lord Mandelson was being interviewed on the Jeremy Vine show where he did his best to be avuncular and wise, assuring the interviewer, that he had been a European Trade Commissioner, and nobody needed to tell him about the institutional failings that needs to be addressed.

Unfortunately, he did not go on to share with us what those problems and necessary reforms might be, and neither, sadly, did Mr Vine press him to explain to the nation what he had in mind.

Herein lies a deep flaw at the heart of the Europhile case.

Brother Ivo often observes that it is one's best friends who are willing to tell us the hardest truths, and may God bless those who love us enough to reprove us, not in anger, but with wisdom and true pastoral care.

If the big beasts of yesteryear who have sustained the Pro-European dream for the past half century know these necessary truths, the identification of which are needed to make the Euro-Leviathan leaner and more fit for purpose, why are they being so reticent about making these helpful suggestions more widely known so that confidence in the EU may be more widely developed?

Brother Ivo has heard - but does not know if it be true - that former servants of the EU risk their pensions if they use their insider knowledge to bite the hand that feeds them. If that is true, then it gives us all the more cause for suspicion when we hear from the likes if Lords Mandelson and Patten. If not, it serves only to show how widespread is the suspicion of an institution that has consistently failed to deliver properly-audited accounts for decades. They need to re-establish their credibility if they seek to be taken seriously in this debate.

Whatever one's views on the ultimate fate of the UK within the EU, we know that it delivers crony capitalism in copious quantities, most recently illustrated by the plans to require restaurants to serve olive oil only in designated and marked containers.

Such nonsense is not of the Euro-sceptics' making, though they immediately see the fruits of industrial manufacturers' lobbying to the detriment of the quality small artisanal producer. Lords Howe, Patten and Mandelson have to engage seriously with how and why this kind of nonsense can happen and how it is to be stopped.

If the erstwhile great-and-the-good seek to preserve the UK within the EU, they need to do more than stand on their dignity and past reputations. They need to offer us analysis and substance. With Lord Lawson characteristically setting out his reasons for changing his mind in these matters, he implicitly challenges his colleagues to 'show their workings'.

There are some who believe and assert that necessary and helpful change is both identifiable and deliverable. If so, they have a duty to offer a comprehensive critique. If Lord Mandelson 'knows' what needs to be done, let him tell the Prime Minister - and us - in plain terms. Not to do so is a betrayal of the cause he purports to be able to sustain.

It was Lord Howe who famously likened Margaret Thatcher to the cricket captain sending his batsman out having broken his bat in advance. He and others are now sending David Cameron in to bat without any bat all.

If these grandees know how to end the nonsense, make the EU honest, and clip the wings of the proud, over-mighty and corrupt, let them help Mr Cameron with a comprehensive programme which he can use as his negotiation checklist as he enters discussion.

If they cannot or will not do this, then a little less patronising rhetoric would be welcome.

(Posted by Brother Ivo)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Paul Goodman: Gay Marriage Bill is a threat to religious freedom

In response to allegations that someone with 'strong social connections' to the Prime Minister (allegedly Lord Feldman) is of the opinion that Conservative Party members are 'mad, swivel-eyed loons', David Cameron has written to every party member assuring them that he thinks nothing of the sort. He said: "I am proud to lead this party. I am proud of what you do. And I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise."

The problem is that many members simply will not believe him, not least because 'swivel-eyed loon', if not quite an aphorism, is an innate Cameroon attitude. Ever since he became leader and sought to stamp his programme of modernisation upon the party, some of his allies have freely described members as ‘Turnip Taliban’, ‘dinosaurs’ and ‘backwoodsmen’. And they have done so with impunity. Lord Feldman's alleged views are therefore unsurprising: there is little to distinguish the prehistoric dinosaur attitude of the rumbling backwoodsman and grumbling Turnip Taliban from the madness of the swivel-eyed loon.

Cameron naturally denies that he is sneering at his party, but his actions belie his words. As the excellent Paul Goodman at ConservativeHome explains:
The Loongate row is still reverberating in the Party, especially at local Association level. The key point about it is that too many Conservatives, from the Cabinet table to the grassroots, believe that the controversial words are what is thought and said of them in Downing Street. No measure has done more to buttress that impression than the same-sex marriage bill - which has been imposed on the Party with such absolutism, and which is the cause of such a bitter culture war. Many older people especially see the measure as a deliberate assault on their values: the bill might thus almost have been designed as a recruiting-sergeant for UKIP. For this reason alone, Tory MPs should vote against the bill this evening in good heart. They will certainly grasp that Ministers haven't a clue what the courts will do when they get to work on Equality Act challenges, and that the bill is consequently a threat to religious freedom.
The vast majority of Conservative Party members - along with discerning Conservatives like Paul Goodman, Sir Gerald Howarth, Edward Leigh and David Burrowes - fully appreciate that same-sex marriage is a threat to religious liberty: it is simply not possible to sustain two competing equalities; one must give way to the other.

Gordon Wilson, former leader of the SNP, has warned that gay marriage will lead to ‘state fascism’. Those who oppose will be cast as bigots, Nazis and fascists ( or 'swivel-eyed loons') ranged against the moderate, enlightened and utterly reasonable proponents. The consequences of this Bill are being completely ignored:
“You are summoned to a tribunal where you cannot have a defense lawyer and you cannot record the proceedings nor have a witness present. The people judging and prosecuting you have no legal qualifications. The accusation is ambiguous, having to do with ideas the state does not like. The penalties could include fines equal to several thousands of dollars, public recanting, and rehabilitation classes. You are a bishop. This is not China. This is Canada. The offense: explaining why homosexual relations are a sin.”
So began the address of Terrence Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, to St Thomas University Law School just six months ago. He set out - calmly and rationally - 'the alarming consequences of same-sex “marriage” from the Canadian experience'.

The Archbishop was recounting the true experiences of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, who received complaints for preaching the Church’s traditional and historic teachings on homosexuality. The complaint was subsequently dropped by the plaintiff, who admitted that he only filed it to get media attention.

How many Christians will be targeted and harassed by 'aggressive homosexuals' - the homosexualists - simply in order 'to get media attention'? And don't think it's only the Christians: the crusading gays are ferociously unforgiving in condemnation of their moderate dissenting co-sexualists (see here, here and here).To the rabid, intolerant homosexualist, a gay person who doesn't support gay marriage is 'like the token Asian guy who wants to be in the BNP'. Nice, huh?

We will doubtless be seeing an awful lot more of this: The Attorney General Dominic Grieve has warned of the 'profound difficulties' ahead for those who dissent from the state's redefinition of marriage. We will surely see Christian ministers and schoolteachers dragged before commissions and inquisitions, and they will be judged 'guilty' irrespective of the religious conscience. Their crime will simply have been that of preaching a sermon or delivering a lesson expressing some concern about the gay agenda or casting some doubt upon the validity of gay marriage. But someone will complain about 'hurt feelings' (whether truly hurt or not), and these preachers and teachers will be arrested, prosecuted, fined or imprisoned. The only means of avoiding this will be self-censorship: the mere discussion of homosexuality will become taboo.

Canada has gone before us. Archbishop Prendergast tells us that gay marriage has resulted in the Bible being called 'hate literature'. Like the Roman Catholic adoption agencies here, there is 'growing pressure for the Church to comply or to be shut down'. Indeed, we've already heard the threats - from a Cameroon Conservative MP.

Archbishop Prendergast enumerates the consequences of same-sex marriages as including 'restrictions on freedoms; forced sex education; sexually confused children; sexual experimentation among children; and muzzling and debilitating the Church'.

“By reassigning financial benefits to same-sex marriage, what was once an incentive to fruitful, traditional families has become an incentive to sterile, destructive social arrangements,” he said.

But David Cameron will march on regardless, persuaded that those who oppose him are the real swivel-eyed loons. He can deny it, but we know that he despises traditionalists. "If our Lord Jesus was around today," he preached back in 2010, "he would very much be backing a strong agenda on equality and equal rights, and not judging people on their sexuality.’

This is his theology.

And when asked if he thought the right of gay children to have a safe education trumps the right of faith schools to teach that homosexuality is a sin, he answered: “Basically yes – that's the short answer to that."

This is his notion of religious liberty.

When the Prime Minister appropriates Jesus to his gay-marriage cause, the dissenting theologian is not merely a swivel-eyed loon: he is a heretic. Not since 1559 has there been an Act of Uniformity requiring everyone to assent to a particular worldview, and it took more than 300 years to eradicate that. But sexual orientation has acquired a quasi-religious status which trumps any religious worldview that opposes it. It is secular pluralism by statute law.

Paul Goodman accuses David Cameron of acting in an absolute fashion. Interestingly, back in 2008 the Archbishop of York wrote of New Labour:
"Our current Government is in danger of sacrificing Liberty in favour of an abused form of equality – not a meaningful equality that enables the excluded to be brought into society, but rather an equality based on diktat and bureaucracy, which overreaches into the realm of personal conscience.”
Cameron once naïvely claimed to be the 'heir to Blair'. Certainly, on equality, they are peas in a pod. Cameroon Conservatives are a continuation of New Labour, which is why they turned to Labour yesterday to rescue this appalling Bill from recalcitrant Tory backbenchers. The Prime Minister has lost sight of the foundational importance of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. He has forgotten that these hard-won liberties are crucial for the peace and security of the realm. He has no understanding at all of what it means to be Conservative in the realm of religion. He has forgotten - if ever he knew - what it is to be conservative.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Gay marriage brings gay supremacy; not equality

It is with considerable weariness, not to say reluctance, that Brother Ivo briefly returns to the issue of Gay 'Marriage'.

Contemplating stable long-term gay relationships, he regularly reverts to the words 'it is what it is', and quite simply does not believe that 'that' is a marriage which, for well-rehearsed reasons, has been culturally, religiously, historically and universally defined and understood as between a man and a woman.

From the outset of the discussion, he warned about 'meaningless arguments over equivalence'. He wishes that had been heeded. 'It is what it is'; no more, no less.

The only new contribution he can now offer is the following short observation identifying an overlooked absurdity:

If the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is passed, we will have Gay Marriages, and Gay Civil Partnerships. The only difference will be at the point the relationship is created. Thereafter, the rights and obligations will be identical, as will be the procedures for ending the relationship.

As Nadine Dorris has correctly identified, sex is a major component within the marital status; there is a full body of jurisprudence to support this, developed from the days of ecclesiastical legal jurisdiction. This has been entirely ignored - or, rather, deliberately excluded - from the legislating framework for these new institutions. So, in brief, we shall have a position where gay men who are 'married' will have more in common with gay civil partners who are not married, than with heterosexual couples who are.

How can this be logically described with any integrity as 'equalisation'?

(Posted by Brother Ivo)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost: the original mad, swivel-eyed loons

Thinking of these Tory swivel-eyed loons, it is apposite today, Whitsunday, to recall the first time Christians were accused of being mad. "Good men and wimmen, this day (Dies Penthecostes) is called Wytsonday by cause the holy ghost bought wytte and wisdom into Crists dyscyples, and so by prechying after in all Cristendom and fylled him full of holy Wytte." But God's wisdom is folly to the world.

In this increasingly secular society, it stands to reason that Christians are perceived as mad, swivel-eyed loons. Dr Richard Dawkins epitomises the attitude. If one is to be counter-cultural and counter-intuitive - as the gospel demands - one should not be surprised when allegations of madness or drunkenness ensue. To oppose equality and diversity - the orthodoxy of the secular age - is to be 'swivel-eyed'.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
Drunk, mad, swivel-eyed - it's all the same haughty mockery. That which the unbeliever cannot rationalise is, by definition, irrational. And the irrational is aberrant, delirious, demented and, in the final analysis, bigoted. It must be silenced and expunged.

But the Church must love the sinner, and that includes the fruitcakes and swivel-eyed loonies, not least because they must feel a degree of empathy. This is indeed mad, but Christianity is mad. What kind of madness is it which sends a swivel-eyed Son-God to preach repentance, salvation and self-sacrifice in an age of materialism, perversion and hedonism? Christians should rejoice in being called mad, swivel-eyed loons - it is our vocation.

The real swivel-eyed loons

This Lord Feldman thing is an irritating and distracting side-show. Of course there are some very, very senior 'professional' politicians who believe the wider Conservative Party membership are 'mad, swivel-eyed loons': that is surely nothing new. It is certainly nothing new to many senior party volunteers who are not infrequently taken into the confidences of senior politicians in a back-slapping, pally kind of way, over a pint or five in the Stranger's Bar, and with a wink and a glint in the eye told precisely what 'senior MPs' and CCHQ really think about party members. We've had a constant but consistent refrain over recent years: from ‘dinosaurs’ to ‘backwoodsmen’ to ‘Turnip Taliban’ to 'swivel-eyed loons'..

But the real swivel-eyed loons are those who assassinate the party leader and persist with their deranged euromania. Take poor Geoffrey Howe. Not content with knifing one prime minister over her increasing euroscepticism, he has now turned on David Cameron for having the audacity to offer Parliament an EU Referendum Bill. And Howe's article in The Guardian (where else?) has all the grubby hallmarks of his notorious assassination of Margaret Thatcher in the House of Commons. Perhaps he was irked by Lord Lawson's reasoned EU intervention. Perhaps he felt he couldn't let so many swivel-eyed ex-chancellors infect the political discourse with their malignant europhobia. Whatever the impetus, this is how he now speaks of David Cameron and the Conservative Parliamentary Party:

..almost farcical.. saga.. looks more like the politics of the French Fourth Republic than the serious practice of government.. the prime minister has opened a Pandora's box politically.. seems to be losing control of his party.. running scared of its own backbenchers.. allowed deep anti-Europeanism to infect the very soul of the party.. the UK needs the (European) union as the platform and vehicle by which to influence events and policy in many spheres.. leaving the union would, by contrast, in my view, be a tragic expression of our shrinking influence and role in the world.. Much of our inward investment also depends on easy access to the £11tn EU economy.. the Conservative party's long, nervous breakdown over Europe continues.. Serious mistakes have been made.. What is needed is a mixture of clear thinking, strong leadership and an overriding concern for the national interest, not party management or advantage.. the Conservative party is losing its head.. a heavy responsibility now rests with Labour and the Liberal Democrats to hold their nerve.. In the complex and interdependent world we inhabit today, to walk away from the European Union into the unknown would be a very dangerous choice indeed.

Who, pray, are the real swivel-eyed loons?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The failures of Committee Stage of Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

The CARE Public Policy Team have produced a helpful document summarising the shortcomings of the Committee Stage of the Government's 'Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill':

Key Facts:
 Report Stage of the Marriage Bill is now only days away
 Considerable problems with the Bill remain
 Committee stage achieved very little
 Not one word of the Bill was amended despite the fact that numerous amendments were put down
 Of the 19 MPs on the committee only four were against the Bill
 There were no dissenters in the Labour ranks

Commenting on the Committee stage Mark D’Arcy, BBC Parliamentary Correspondent said, “In short, it's all a bit of a ritual. The dissenters dissent and the supporters support, and the whole thing is as mannered as a minuet danced at the court of Louis XVI.”

A range of concerns were not properly addressed by the Government. Here are four:

1) Failure to put same sex relationships into same legal framework as opposite sex marriage

The Government’s Position
 The Government Minister, Hugh Robertson MP, supported the Bill’s position that adultery is only a ground for divorce in a marriage between two people of the opposite sex.
 The Minister noted that introducing homosexual adultery would bring “significant uncertainty for couples. It could lead to divorce applications failing, and adultery would be difficult to prove.”
Critique by MPs
 Tim Loughton asked: “Why should a same-sex couple who want to get married not be subject to the same obligations and rules as an opposite-sex couple who want to get married?
 He added: “One could logically make the case for legal recognition of same-sex relationships, but if the standards of commitment required are different from those required in a marriage, it would be completely wrong to categorise such relationships as marriage.”
David Burrowes remarked that debate on this issue exposed “the flawed notion of equal marriage as a concept.”
VERDICT: The notion of equal marriage is a flawed concept.

2) Failure to address inequality

The Government’s Position
 The Minister made clear, in accordance with the Bill, that couples already in a civil partnership who wish to marry will not be required to have a same sex marriage ceremony, unlike every other couple.
 He said: “a couple in a civil partnership will have already gone through a civil partnership registration, demonstrating a level of commitment not unlike-different, but not unlike-that required for a marriage ceremony.
 He added that the conversion from a civil partnership to a marriage “will simply involve a straightforward administrative process for those who prefer that, while those who want a more public ceremony will be able to hold that at a place of their choosing.”
Critique by MPs
David Burrowes responded: “How can I set out the Government’s case that the Bill is all about equality for same-sex couples to be married like opposite-sex couples, when only same-sex couples can be civil partners and have this conversion - perhaps this paper upgrade - to marriage, so skipping the other formal requirements of the Marriage Act?
VERDICT: The Minister failed to address the fundamental subject of inequality.

3) Failure to address religious freedom for registrars

The Government’s Position
 The Minister argued, in accordance with the Bill, that registrars should be compelled to perform same sex marriages even if it is against their conscience or religious belief.
The Minister responded to Tim Loughton’s question about freedom of conscience by saying: “They are different functions. One is an abortion; the other is a same-sex marriage.
Critique by MPs
 David Burrowes and Tim Loughton pointed out that the law has long accommodated atheist teachers who do not wish to teach religion in schools and pro-life doctors who do not want to perform abortions. There is no reason why this principle should not be extended to registrars who do not wish to conduct marriage between two people of the same sex.
 The Minister was asked by Tim Loughton: “Why is it the principle that a surgeon who has strong Catholic views is allowed to pick and choose whether to perform abortions or other surgery, if the same principle cannot be applied to a Catholic registrar with strong views, allowing them to pick and choose whether to perform that other public service? What is so essentially different that we protect one but not the other?
VERDICT: There is inconsistency in the Government’s position. In both cases public servants perform a public function for which the public pay. Merely saying that they are different functions is not justification for treating them differently.

4) Failure to address protection for schools

The Government’s Position
 The Minister asserted that “no teacher is under any duty to promote or endorse a particular view of marriage, and neither would they as a result of any revised guidance in the future.” However, he was unprepared to allow this to be written into the Bill.
 He further commentedteachers are entirely free to express their views in any reasonable way that they wish, but not in an offensive or discriminatory fashion.” But what constitutes an “offensive or discriminatory fashion” was not clarified.
Critique by MPs
 Tim Loughton quoted John Bowers QC – Employment Silk of the Year 2010 – who, in his legal opinion, says that teaching that one form of marriage is “better than another” would likely “amount to unlawful direct or indirect discrimination.”
VERDICT: The Minister was unable to address the major concern of protection for teachers who do not feel able to endorse the new definition of marriage.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Nick Boles and Nadine Dorries - a tale of two electoral pacts

Ever since the 2010 General Election, the Conservative Party has been mulling over the possible long-term consequences of coalition, mainly in preparation for a forthcoming era of political indecision and hung parliaments. On the left is Nick Boles - privately-educated, PPE Oxford, son of a knight, moderniser, europhile, gay - who imagined an electoral pact with the Liberal Democrats. On the right is Nadine Dorries - comprehensive-educated, former nurse, daughter of a bus driver, traditionalist, eurosceptic, anti-gay-marriage - who has mooted a deal with Ukip.

Nick Boles wrote back in 2010:
If large numbers of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs feel that the harsh but necessary measures being implemented by the coalition are destroying their chances of being re-elected, they will begin to panic and look for opportunities to bolt.

That’s why I conclude my book with a call for an electoral pact. This autumn both David Cameron and Nick Clegg should ask their parties to approve a binding agreement to fight the 2015 general election as coalition partners.

...the pact would give parliamentary candidates in constituencies in seats held by a coalition party a free run against other parties... We would also agree on which coalition party should contest the most marginal seats of the opposition parties. If the voters do decide to embrace the alternative vote, the pact would require each of the coalition partners to urge their supporters to give their second preference vote to the candidate from the other coalition party.
And here's Nadine Dorries in this week's Spectator:
She has already mooted 2015 candidates with a joint Ukip/Tory endorsement. Now she reveals she will be seeking that arrangement for herself. ‘I will be having that kind of conversation with my association,’ she says. She’d need its permission to stand as a joint candidate - but she seems happy for herself and other Tory MPs to seek this before the leadership then follows.

She says she can appreciate the conflict felt by Tory voters who went for Ukip in the local elections. ‘There are members in my association who approached me recently who are confused,’ she said. ‘They have always been Conservative and will never change their allegiance but feel very much as though they have a huge amount of empathy with Ukip. I feel it would be a travesty if Ukip came in and took the seats off our councillors or indeed me when actually their policies and their beliefs are very much Ukip. Because what we have done, we have thrown clothes off and they have picked them up and put them on.’
Nick Boles was 'notably' not slapped down for his LibDem dalliance: indeed, he was rewarded with a job in Government. David Cameron made him a junior minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Nadine Dorries has been swiftly slapped down for her proposed Ukip alliance. David Cameron said his party 'doesn't do pacts and deals'.

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